Boris Johnson’s allies will urge him to launch another bus tour to stir up opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit plans at a crunch meeting of eurosceptics next week.
HuffPost UK has learned the former Foreign Secretary, who quit the Government over its negotiating stance with the EU, will be pressured into hitting the road in the run up to the Conservative Party conference in September.
The roadshow would focus on firing up grassroots Tories to oppose May’s so-called ‘Chequers Agreement’.
Johnson will hold a meeting with his closest allies next week to thrash out the details of the roadshow, but an influential pro-Brexit MP confirmed to HuffPost UK the idea of replicating the bus campaign used in the 2016 EU referendum campaign would be on the table.
It seems Johnson would require some persuasion, with a source close to the former London Mayor ruling out another bus tour.
Johnson will be urged to go on tour by other Tory MPs who share his concerns the Chequers Agreement will leave the UK tied to EU rules on goods and agri-foods without having any influence on those laws.
Asked about the plans for a new bus tour, a senior Tory Brexiteer MP confirmed that was one of the options being considered, adding: “There’s a lot going on, people are trying to work out what can be done without tearing the party in two.”
A source close to Johnson admitted the planning meeting is scheduled for next week, saying: “Something is definitely in the offing. We want to make it clear that we are still campaigning for a proper Brexit.”
Johnson is already planning to cause a stir at the four-day Tory party conference in Birmingham, scheduled to start on September 30. The Sun has reported he will deliver a key-note speech at a fringe meeting – likely to become the main event for anti-Chequers Tories at the gathering.
One ally of Johnson told the Sun: “Boris has always been the biggest draw at party conference.
“He will make the fringe meeting look like the conference hall and the conference hall will look like a fringe meeting.”
Johnson’s presence on the Vote Leave bus became one of the most iconic images of the 2016 EU Referendum campaign.
The bus was emblazoned with the slogan “We send the EU £350 million a week – let’s fund our NHS instead” – a claim that was contested as the figure did not reflect the money returned to the UK from Brussels.
Johnson has always stood by the £350million claim, and doubled down on it in an article for Telegraph in September last year.
UK Stats Authority chief Sir David Norgrove accused Johnson of a “clear misuse of official statistics” by quoting the number, as it does not include any money the UK gets back from the EU in the budget rebate or other spending programmes.
Tom Baldwin, Director of Communications for the People’s Vote campaign, called for Johnson to go on an “apology tour” of the UK for his part in the original Brexit campaign, and then suggested “a period of silence from this poundshop Trump would be most welcome.”
He added: “For him to now be considering a new bus tour to try and re-sell his Brexit snake-oil is a disgrace. And like a true snake-oil salesman, he should be met at every stop of his proposed tour by crowds of outraged protestors demanding he makes amends.”
Since quitting as Foreign Secretary in July, Johnson has generated controversy with his interventions on Brexit and Islam.
The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP used his resignation speech to claim May’s plan for Brexit would leave the UK in a “miserable permanent limbo” - adding it was “not too late to save Brexit”.
In an article for the Telegraph earlier this month, Johnson provoked controversy when he described the burka as “ridiculous” and “weird” and said women wearing them looked like letter-boxes or bank robbers.
Johnson was ordered to apologise for the comments by Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis, with the Prime Minister saying his remarks “clearly caused offence”
After HuffPost UK published this article, a source close to the former Foreign Secretary issued a statement ruling out replicating the 2016 campaign strategy.
“Mr Johnson is categorically not going on a bus tour - any suggestion to the contrary is entirely wrong,” the source said.