Theresa May made a “deliberate decision” to stop Boris Johnson taking charge of Brexit when he was Foreign Secretary, it is being claimed.
His successor at the Foreign Office, Jeremy Hunt, suggested that Downing Street had not trusted the leading Brexiteer to deliver on her plan.
Mr Johnson later spectacularly quit the Cabinet claiming that the UK was headed “for the status of a colony” if Mrs May’s soft Brexit plans were adopted.
But many at No 10 felt that Mr Johnson, the public face of Vote Leave, had been determined to undermine her attempts to get Britain out of the European Union ever since she took over at No 10.
In an explosive interview with the Institute for Government, Mr Hunt said: “It was a deliberate decision to take Brexit out of the hands of the Foreign Office while Boris was Foreign Secretary, that was what No. 10 intended.”
The ex-Cabinet Minister claimed that when he took over Mr Johnson’s job in 2018 the department became “a bit more involved”.
Mrs May created the Brexit department in July 2016, in the wake of the referendum vote, and handed it the responsibility for the UK’s departure from the EU instead.
But in the same series of interviews, her de facto deputy David Lidington claimed it had been “a mistake” to do so and Brexit should have been run from the centre of Government instead.
He added: “There should have been a different approach to the [Brexit] negotiations at the start, because I think it would have been possible then to come to the deal earlier.”
And he disputed claims by ex-minister Liam Fox that the civil service had dragged their feet over Brexit – claiming they were “working flat out” and would have “done their utmost” to deliver the politicians’ wishes.
Mr Lidington also claimed that he had backed Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal – which was 95% Mrs May’s – after the PM privately assured him that a no deal departure was “not something that any sensible PM would choose”.
Tory election campaign chief Isaac Levido told the BBC on Sunday that neither he nor controversial aide Dominic Cummings had come up with the “Get Brexit Done” slogan.
“Much as I’d like to claim credit for writing that, it was the British people. It was a sentiment that came up time + time again in focus groups,” he said.
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