UK′s Boris Johnson slammed for ′suicide vest′ remark | News | DW | 09.09.2018
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UK's Boris Johnson slammed for 'suicide vest' remark

The UK's ex-foreign minister has drawn condemnation for his latest outspoken remarks on PM Theresa May's Brexit deal. The furor underlines continuing divisions in the governing Conservative Party.

Former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Sunday drew criticism from political colleagues for a description of Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for Brexit that struck many as offensive.

In an article in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Johnson, a strong supporter of Britain's leaving the EU, described the so-called Chequers plan as a "humiliation," saying it amounted to "agreeing to take EU rules, with no say on those rules."

And, in a typically outspoken remark that caused a furor not only in political circles, Johnson said that with May's plan, "we have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution — and handed the detonator" to the EU.

'Disgusting'

Alan Duncan, a minister at the Foreign Office, said in a tweet that Johnson's remarks constituted "one of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics" and that they should bring about "the political end of Boris Johnson."

Another Conservative colleague of Johnson's, Tom Tugendhat, who is a former army officer, spoke on Twitter of having experienced the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Afghanistan at first hand. "Comparing the PM to that isn't funny," he said, calling on Johnson to "grow up."

Among other things, Johnson opposes the plan's proposal to have the UK's Northern Ireland effectively remain in a customs union with the bloc to avoid a hard border with EU member Ireland.

Read more: EU Customs Union, Single Market, Brexit — What you need to know

Watch video 03:12

Brexit: Uncertainty at the Irish border

Blunder-prone

Johnson, who left May's government in July after disagreeing with her proposals to maintain close trade ties with the EU, is well-known for his often abrasive verbal blunders. Among other things, he has called Papua New Guineans cannibals, and last month was criticized for comparing Muslim women who wear full-face veils to " letter boxes ."

However, his reservations about May's plan for Brexit, hatched at her country house, Chequers, are shared by other euroskeptic lawmakers who want a clean break with the bloc to allow Britain to strike new trade deals around the world.

Read more: Is the Brexit hard-liner European Research Group running the UK?

His article on Sunday has fueled speculation that he might be planning to stage a leadership challenge — though other Conservatives have suggested it was written to divert attention from his marital difficulties after an announcement on Friday that he was to divorce from his wife of 25 years, Marina Wheeler.

Historic policy shift

The plan has also come under attack from EU supporters for allegedly bringing only disadvantages and no benefits from the withdrawal, which will constitute the biggest upheaval in the UK's foreign and trade policy in almost 50 years.

The plan's supporters say that close ties with the EU, the UK's closest trading partner, are necessary to keep the economy strong. 

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, but definitive plans for the departure are meant to be presented at a summit in October.

Read more: Brexit Diaries 44: Return to the trenches for Theresa May 

tj/rc (AP, Reuters)

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