Europe

Boris Johnson's union adviser quits less than two weeks into job

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser on keeping the United Kingdom together has stepped down, claiming his job was made ‘untenable’ by No. 10 colleagues.

Oliver Lewis was appointed just two weeks ago to head a unit whose importance is mounting as key Scottish Parliament elections draw near.

Whether to hold a second independence referendum is expected to be the dominant issue ahead of the vote in early May.

Mr Lewis’ predecessor, Luke Graham, a former MP for Ochil and South Perthshire in Scotland, reportedly stepped down after furious rows over the unit’s strategy.

Some officials felt Mr Graham’s efforts were ‘frustrated by other people in the building’, while others laid the blame for the breakdown at his feet, according to the Financial Times.

Mr Lewis was head of research at the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum, and was a right-hand man to the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost.

He was seen as an ally of Dominic Cummings, who resigned as Mr Johnson’s chief aide in November after another key former Vote Leave staffer stepped down as the PM’s communications chief.

After Mr Lewis’s resignation, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: ‘Disunity in the Union unit. Or maybe just despair at realising how threadbare the case for it is.’

The SNP’s deputy leader in Westminster, Kirsten Oswald, said Mr Johnson’s ‘taxpayer-funded anti-independence campaign is completely falling apart’.

‘As support for independence grows, the Tories are losing advisers like rats on a sinking ship. People in Scotland have a right to determine their own future in a post-pandemic referendum. Boris Johnson knows he cannot deny democracy any more than Donald Trump.

‘The issue at the election in May will be this: who has the right to decide what sort of country we should be after the pandemic – the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson?

‘The only way to ensure Scotland’s future is in Scotland’s hands not Boris Johnson’s is with both votes SNP.’

Downing Street declined to comment on what it called ‘staffing matters’.

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