BORIS Johnson’s offensive and woefully ill-judged intervention in the Brexit debate yesterday only served to underline how badly divided the Conservatives are over the formula for withdrawing from the EU.
The former foreign secretary is entitled to air his views, but his use of the term “suicide vest” to describe Theresa May’s negotiating position was reprehensible, and raises serious doubts about his fitness to hold the high office to which he plainly aspires. He should apologise for his words.
Nevertheless, his unstatesmanlike language is an indicator of how bitter the schism within the Conservatives is, with another former minister, Steve Baker, warning that Mrs May risks a catastrophic split within the party if she presses ahead with her Chequers plan.
Yet a workable set of proposals must be found, and soon. Today marks 200 days until Britain is due to leave the EU and this milestone prompted severe criticism from senior business figures over the Government’s handling of negotiations. They make a valid point. As the Institute of Directors makes clear, the lack of clarity over the post-Brexit relationship with the EU increases the likelihood of companies triggering contingency plans with potentially damaging effects for the economy.
It is becoming ever more apparent that crashing out of the EU with no deal will be bad for Britain. Warnings from business cannot be ignored, or still less be dismissed as scaremongering. The lack of clarity only increases the clamour for a second referendum, and senior Labour MP David Lammy is quite possibly correct in the assertion that his party will decide to support the idea.
The infighting within the Government is damaging and must stop. Mrs May has to find a Brexit formula that is not only acceptable to Parliament, but reassures the business community upon which this country’s prosperity depends.