- Boris Johnson voices concern over Theresa May’s plan to continue regulatory alignment with the EU after Brexit.
- Pro-Brexit cabinet ministers are opposed to any deal that would tie the UK to the EU after exit day.
- Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith urges May to walk away from talks.
LONDON – Boris Johnson has challenged Theresa May over the government’s proposal to continue regulatory alignment with the European Union after Brexit.
The foreign secretary reportedly told the prime minister of his concerns over the planned relationship between the UK and EU at the weekly Cabinet meeting.
A rebellion by leading cabinet Brexiteers is close to happening after May’s proposal to solve the Irish border issue by continuing alignment on trade and customs rules with the EU after Brexit was made public this week.
The prime minister told Brussels that there would be “a common set of goals” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in order to convince the EU and Dublin that there would not be a hard Irish border.
However, after pressure from the DUP and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, Brexit Secretary David Davis told MPs on Tuesday that any “alignment” would apply to the whole of the UK, not just Northern Ireland after Brexit.
He said: “Any regulatory alignment we get as part of Brexit deal for Northern Ireland will apply for the whole country.”
Johnson told May at Cabinet that he “would worry if regulatory alignment bound us into the EU,” The Sun newspaper reported.
It has emerged that the prime minister did not get Cabinet to approve her plan for continued alignment, raising fears that pro-Brexit ministers could speak out against it.
One senior Conservative told The Times that Tory MPs would reject a plan that would allow close alignment with the EU. They said: “How long do you think she [Mrs May] would last as prime minister if she accepted anything that restricted our ability to negotiate trade deals?”
Former Tory leader and prominent Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC on Tuesday night: “We cannot sign up to regulatory alignment. It means we can’t do trade deals. “These are demands that are designed to box us in. We have to say to them, ‘not good enough’. We simply can’t pay this price.”
Former education secretary Nicky Morgan described Duncan Smith’s claim as “madness,” saying: “Walking away when the Brexiteers encounter difficulties they never bothered to anticipate is not in the national interest and betrays the futures of millions of young people.”
Davis was yesterday keen to stress that “alignment” does not mean sharing the exact same rules as the EU.
The Brexit Secretary told MPs: “Alignment isn’t harmonisation, it isn’t having exactly the same rules, it’s sometimes having mutually recognised rules, mutually recognised inspections, that sort of thing. That’s what we are aiming for.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster did not meet with May on Tuesday despite the prime minister inviting her and delayed a planned phone call between the two leaders.
Foster has expressed concern that any government plan to align Northern Ireland’s regulations with the EU, as reported this week, would create new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.