Boris Johnson launches ‘hard Brexit’ think tank... in another challenge to Theresa May’s authority
In another sign of a cabinet split over the future of Britain once it withdraws from the EU, the foreign secretary is to launch a think tank later on Wednesday that will likely undermine the government’s softer Brexit stance.
Johnson will be joined by Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, as he launches the Institute for Free Trade in the map room at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Wednesday evening.
The think tank states it will seek to influence the Brexit outcome by approaching businesses and ministers independently of the Department for International Trade.
Its policies appear to be contrary to the government’s official line, as they would seek to dodge European standards on products, as well as restrictions on trade deals before the UK effectively withdraws from the bloc in 2019.
It would also promote new trade networks “to make sure that they are contracted on the basis of mutual recognition rather than standardization,” according to the think tank’s website.
Johnson has recently found himself at odds with the government after penning a 4,000-word article in the Telegraph outlining his “glorious” vision for Brexit.
In the piece, the foreign secretary reaffirmed the already debunked claim that Brexit would return £350 million (US$470 million) per week to Britain’s ailing National Health Service (NHS).
He also claimed the UK would not be paying millions to access the single market, seemingly unaware the government had already conceded to pay £30 billion to withdraw its membership from the EU, to be paid over a two-year transition period.
The think tank, is chaired by Jon Moynihan, a member of the board of the Vote Leave campaign, and led by Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP.
Pat McFadden, former shadow Europe minister and supporter of Open Britain, the pro-Remain group, said Johnson’s initiative is a testimony to May’s withering authority over her party.
“Any prime minister with an ounce of strength would not permit cabinet colleagues to launch think tanks undermining the government’s policy, let alone in a government building,” he said, according to the Times.