UK

Boris Johnson Gets A Slapdown From Theresa May And Pat On The Back From Donald Trump

'Boris is Boris,' says PM witheringly after his Brexit column.

18/09/2017 17:00 BST | Updated 18/09/2017 20:20 BST

Boris Johnson has been publicly reprimanded by Theresa May for his controversial Brexit intervention - as the Foreign Secretary received a pat on the back from US President Donald Trump.

The Prime Minister told reporters as she arrived in Canada that “Boris is Boris” when referring to Johnson mapping out his vision for life outside the European Union in an article for the Daily Telegraph, and made clear her government was “driven from the front” and “all going in the same direction”.

Her “driven from the front” line echoes comments from Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who a day earlier suggested Johnson was acting like a “backseat driver”.

Shrugging off his comments, May said:

“I am clear that what the Government is doing and the Cabinet is agreed on is that we base our negotiations - as we have done - on the principles that we set out in the Lancaster House speech.

“This Government is driven from the front and we are all going to the same destination because we are all agreed.”

At the same time, Johnson was attending a United Nations summit in New York, and received a firm pat on the back from Trump.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Johnson later spoke to journalists at the UN general assembly, and defended his column for the Daily Telegraph as a “drum roll” (see video above).

“I am trying to say once you take back control there are opportunities,” he said of the piece, which has become contentious for re-litigating the row over whether an extra £350m would be spent on UK public services after Brexit.

“We do not want to be paying extortionate sums for access to the single market.

“It is pretty important that it should not be too long and business should have a clear sense about where we are going and what it is like at the end of it.”

Asked if he would resign, the Home Secretary said: “I think you may be barking up the wrong tree.

“On the transition period I can see some vital importance of having some clarity and certainty since what all of us want is that it should not be too long.

“Let us not try and find rows where there are really not rows.

“People want to know where we are going. It is good to have a bit of an opening drum roll about what this country can do.”

He added: “When the burden of office is lifted from my shoulders I will of course look back with great pride on my time doing all sorts of things.”

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Last week, the Foreign Secretary set out his “vision for a bold, thriving Britain enabled by Brexit”.

It was seen as an intervention to burnish his credentials as a future Tory Party leader and came ahead of May’s highly-anticipated speech in Florence on the UK’s future place in Europe. 

His piece prompted fury from numerous Tories, with one former minister telling the Observer his behaviour was “disgraceful”.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson – a long-standing critic of Johnson – tweeted ahead of the article’s publication that given the terrorist attack at Parsons Green “our only thoughts should be on service”.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Rudd was asked whether she agreed with Davidson. “I think she has a point, yes,” she replied.

Rudd described Johnson as an “irrepressible enthusiast” about Brexit, and referring to the article she said: “I think it’s absolutely fine. I would expect nothing less from Boris.”

Rudd and Johnson were on opposite sides of the referendum campaign, and during a televised debate ahead of the vote, the now-Home Secretary said while the former Mayor of London could be the life and soul of a party, “he isn’t the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”.

When asked by Marr what she meant by that comment, Rudd replied: “What I meant by that is I don’t want him managing the Brexit process. What we’ve got is Theresa May managing that process.

“She’s driving the car, to continue the allegory, and I’m going to make sure that as far as I’m concerned the rest of the Cabinet we help her do that. This is a difficult moment.”

When asked if she felt Johnson was trying to backseat drive the Brexit talks, Rudd said: “You could call it backseat driving, absolutely.