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Boris and Jo Johnson fall out over Brexit

Jo, younger brother of Boris, steps down as a transport minister and calls for a second Brexit referendum
In this March 28, 2017 file photo, Jo Johnson visits the the European Commission in Brussels.
In this March 28, 2017 file photo, Jo Johnson visits the the European Commission in Brussels.

Amit Roy   |   London   |   Published 10.11.18, 08:29 PM

Boris Johnson’s younger brother, Jo Johnson, resigned as transport minister from Theresa May’s government on Friday, setting out his reasons in the manner of an analytical Financial Times article.

This is not surprising given the 46-year-old was the pink paper’s Delhi correspondent before going into politics. Jo, who wanted Britain to remain in the EU — in marked contrast to the more flamboyant Boris — demanded a second referendum.


May issued an immediate rejection through her Downing Street spokesman: “We will not under any circumstances have a second referendum.”

But if parliament rejects the Brexit deal the Prime Minister is currently finalising, a second referendum — the “people’s vote” — may prove the only way of resolving the unprecedented political and constitutional crisis.

Jo said: “Brexit has divided the country. It has divided political parties. And it has divided.… yes, my family too.”

He added that “it has become increasingly clear to me that the withdrawal agreement, which is being finalised in Brussels and Whitehall will be a terrible mistake”.

“To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.

“What is now being proposed won’t be anything like what was promised two years ago….This is a con on the British people.

“My brother Boris, who led the leave campaign, is as unhappy with the government’s proposals as I am.

Indeed he recently observed that the proposed arrangements were ‘“substantially worse than staying in the EU’.

On that he is unquestionably right. If these negotiations have achieved little else, they have at least united us in fraternal dismay.

“But my message to my brother and to all leave campaigners is that inflicting such serious economic and political harm on the country will leave an indelible impression of incompetence in the minds of the public.”

“Given that the reality of Brexit has turned out to be so far from what was once promised, the democratic thing to do is to give the

public the Final Say.”

What is happening in the Johnson family would be an entertaining comedy if the issues were not so serious.

Brexit has not only divided Britain down the middle but also individual families, none more dramatically than the Johnsons, who have

tried to their differences in check so as not to scupper Boris’s chances of replacing May as prime minister.

The battle lines in the Johnson family are as follows: Boris, 54, who resigned four months ago as foreign secretary, led the Leave

campaign during the referendum.

Using his brother’s resignation to take a pot-shot at the prime minister, he tweeted: “Boundless admiration as ever for my brother

Jo. We may not have agreed about Brexit but we are united in dismay at the intellectually and politically indefensible of the UK


His sister, Rachel Johnson, 53, is also, like Jo, a remainer.

She tweeted: “Am hugely proud of my honourable and principled brother Jo who has put the interests of the country ahead of his

political career.”

Rachel, who has joined the Liberal Democratic Party, once slapped down Boris who is against May’s “Chequers” deal: “It’s no good

pure Brexiteers saying ‘chuck Chequers’ without coming up with a viable, workable alternative.”

Another brother, Leo, 50, is not in public life but, as a remainer, he tweeted: “Respect to you Jo my bro. Full (and accurate)

facts, clear set of options. We need a real vote based on those.”

Then there is father Stanley, 78, a remainer, who tries to support both Boris and Jo, despite their different positions.

In an interview on Sky TV, he got into a heated debate with presenter Emma Crosby who questioned Stanley about his apparently

dysfunctional family: “A lot of people might be watching this interview tonight, Stanley Johnson, thinking what is wrong with your

sons? Boris has resigned, now Jo Johnson, if they had any backbone they’d stay in their position and actually help the prime


An Indignant Stanley reacted: “Oh come on, I’ve got to say with greatest respect that is a totally trivial point to make.”


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