Boris Johnson has been slapped down by Downing Street for accusing Theresa May of putting the UK in a “suicide vest” over Brexit.
Speaking on Monday, May’s spokesman said: “This isn’t language that the Prime Minister would choose to use. Beyond that I don’t plan on giving this article further oxygen.”
Number 10 said the Chequers proposal, which was agreed in July and led to the resignations of Boris Johnson and then Brexit Secretary David Davis, was “the only plan on the table”, despite threats that up to 80 Tory MPs could vote against it.
Johnson has fuelled speculation about his leadership ambitions by stepping up his attacks on May’s Chequers Brexit plan with a column in the Mail on Sunday.
“We have opened ourselves to perpetual political blackmail. We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier,” he said.
The comments triggered a fierce backlash from Tory MPs opposed to Johnson becoming party leader.
Justice Secretary David Gauke told the BBC this morning he was “not a natural Boris supporter”.
Sir Alan Duncan, Johnson’s former deputy at the Foreign Office, said Johnson’s column was one of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics”.
Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, today said she would refuse to serve in a Johnson led Cabinet.
And 12 Tory MPs are reportedly even ready to quit the party should the former foreign secretary take over from May as leader.
There has also been a renewed focus on Johnson’s private life following the announcement that he has separated from his wife Marina Wheeler and the couple are divorcing.
Former minister Steve Baker claimed today up to 80 Tory MPs were prepared to vote against May’s Brexit plan. He warned today the party faced a “catastrophic split” if the prime minister refused to back down.
The prime minister will chair a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss the preparations in the event of a no deal Brexit.