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United Kingdom foreign minister criticised for resurrecting 'Brexit benefit' mantra

United Kingdom foreign minister criticised for resurrecting 'Brexit benefit' mantra

Johnson's article is a public attempt to shape May's thinking a week before she speaks in Florence, Italy, amid speculation she will update her approach to the divorce by seeking a post-Brexit transitional period.

Arguing that the the United Kingdom should not pay for access to the single market, he seemed to oppose any possible transition period, as has been put forward by finance minister Philip Hammond.

The watchdog initially warned Vote Leave the number lacked "clarity" because it referred only to the UK's gross annual contribution and did not take into account Britain's rebate or money that comes back from the EU.

The article triggered anger among many MPs and there have been calls for his resignation.

Amber Rudd said she had been "too busy" dealing with the Parsons Green bomb attack to read the opus and criticised the Foreign Secretary for releasing the piece at the time of the blast.

Some speculated Johnson could fuel the crisis at the top of the party by staging a dramatic resignation after May's Florence speech, in the hope of using the conference to rally the hard-Brexit wing of the party behind him.

Mr Johnson responded with his own letter accusing the UK Statistics Authority chairman of a "complete misrepresentation" of his views and called on him to withdraw the criticism.

But in a bid to achieve maximum publicity, the foreign secretary later got around the paywall by posting the article on his Facebook page.

"It is a clear misuse of official statistics", Norgrove said in a letter to the minister on Sunday.

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But de facto deputy Prime Minister Damian Green dismissed suggestions the Foreign Secretary would be sacked over his comments.

Amid the row over the £350 million claim, Mr Gove tweeted it was "important people look at what Boris actually wrote" in his article and the "debate should be forward looking on how to make most of life outside European Union - not refighting referendum".

The paper reported that Johnson will have a meeting with the prime minister in which he will want her reassurances that she will not agree to make big payments, reportedly as much as £10bn a year, to the European Union after Brexit.

"What we've got is Theresa May managing that process, she's driving the vehicle", Rudd told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said Johnson was "desperately concerned not to be forgotten - after all, he still wants to be leader".

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: "The Foreign Secretary even has the gall to dredge up the fantasy of £350 million a week extra for the NHS".

Matthew d'Ancona, a columnist in The Guardian, added: "This is really about the prime minister, rather than Johnson himself".

"To give you an example: when I was Mayor of London I thought it would be a good idea if we persuaded the Commission to spend £8m on the Emirates cable vehicle".


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