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‘Chuck Chequers’: Johnson challenges PM May on Brexit


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BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters): Former British foreign minister Boris Johnson set out his stall to the Conservative Party faithful on Tuesday, stopping just short of an outright leadership bid to replace Prime Minister Theresa May but tearing into her Brexit blueprint.

To standing ovations, cheers and laughter, Johnson, May’s most powerful critic in her governing party, said her so-called Chequers plan to leave the European Union was a “cheat” and called on the party to return to its traditional values, including tax cuts and stricter law and order.

He also urged increased spending on the public health service.

With just six months before Britain leaves the EU, May’s precarious position at the helm of her party has been further shaken by criticism of her plans at home and in Brussels.

Johnson, the figurehead for the campaign to leave the EU, warned party members that if they stuck by Chequers, named after May’s country residence where she hashed out an agreement with her ministers, they could be signing up to the party’s electoral death. But he was quick to add he would stick by May, if not her plan, at least for now.

“Do not believe them when they say there is no other plan and no alternative,” Johnson told the hundreds of Conservatives who queued to get a seat in a hall just across from the main venue where May will speak at the party’s annual conference on Wednesday.

“Do not believe that we can somehow get it wrong now, bodge it now and fix it later,” he said to cheers.

“This is the moment to chuck Chequers,” he said. “If we cheat the electorate, and Chequers is a cheat, we will escalate that sense of mistrust.”

May has shown little sign of moving away from her blueprint, but after trying to display unity over Brexit at her party’s conference in the city of Birmingham, Johnson looked to have shattered those attempts.

 


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