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Brexiteers begin to rally around 'isolated' Boris Johnson

19 September 2017

While Theresa May has distanced herself from foreign secretary Boris Johnson's renewed claim that up to £350m a week extra should be made available for the NHS after Brexit, the UK Statistics chief Sir David Norgrove has publically pulled up the foreign secretary in a letter stating he was "surprised and disappointed" to see the foreign secretary restate the controversial claim, triggering a war of words between the two.

The head of the statistics watchdog is standing by his criticism of Boris Johnson's Brexit article despite the Foreign Secretary's aides claiming he was "absolutely fine" with the piece. May is making a major speech Friday in Florence, Italy, that is meant to help break the logjam. Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC that Mr. Boris Johnson is "backseat driving" in the Brexit process, suggesting that his intervention was "unhelpful".

Quizzed on whether she would still be Conservative leader at the next general election, which could be held any time up to 7 June 2022, Mrs May refused to be drawn.

Johnson, meanwhile, was a leading voice for Brexit in last year's referendum and has always been tipped for the top job.

Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokeswoman said the question of Britain paying for access to the European markets was a matter for negotiations.

PM's spokesperson says the foreign secretary's views are "well known" and asks journalists to look the figures up themselves.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: "Businesses across the country need certainty and stability but the glacial pace of Brexit negotiations is providing anything but".

Johnson has been silent on domestic issues for several months, but a number of newspaper articles last week suggested he was disgruntled with the progress of Brexit.

With some colleagues angered by the timing - Johnson's article was published a day after a bomb injured 30 people on a train - he later added on Twitter: "Looking forward to PM's Florence Speech".

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As well as saying the United Kingdom would "take back control" of about £350m a week after Brexit - and that much of this could be spent on the NHS - he said he opposed paying the European Union to secure temporary access to the single market during a transitional phase after the UK's departure.

He also drew criticism for reviving a hotly contested referendum campaign claim that Britain would regain £350 million a week to spend on public services once it stops paying into the European Union budget.

The manifesto of Boris Johnson in favour of Brexit "hard" has re-opened box of thunder in Conservative Party and in Government's own Theresa May.

"It is a good thing to have a bit of an opening drum roll about what this country can do". "It punctured the gloom".

The proposal comes days after a blast on a packed commuter underground train injured 30 people in west London, Britain's fifth major attack this year.

"After all, he still wants to be leader".

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said Johnson was "desperately concerned not to be forgotten".

"The ridiculous pretence that all is well in her administration has been decisively and brutally punctured, and can not be restored with a straight face".

Brexiteers begin to rally around 'isolated' Boris Johnson