Boris Johnson has warned that “some plaster may fall off the ceiling” in the Brexit negotiations but said he was confident Theresa May “can pull it off” in his first frontline intervention in the party’s general election campaign.
His speech at the London Mayor’s Banquet comes after allies of the Foreign Secretary dismissed reports he is to be sidelined in the party’s electoral effort in the coming weeks. “The Foreign Secretary will have a clear role to play,” a senior source said. “You will see him in a prominent role in the very near future.”
Referring to the election at Mansion House in the City of London, Mr Johnson added that the public needs “clear leadership to navigate this age of uncertainty” and that the Prime Minister’s decision to call the vote in June “will be a source of stability and continuity and certainty”.
In an attempt to contrast the Labour leader’s stance on Trident, he added: “There can be no more important task for a Government than to keep people safe – and we must be prepared to do everything necessary to do so.
“It is why the Prime Minister made it a priority when she took office last year to ensure the renewal of Britain’s crucial independent nuclear deterrent and to lead the debate in Parliament."
Speaking about the Brexit negotiations Mr Johnson added: “And though I have no doubt that the negotiations will be tough and some plaster may fall off the ceiling, I am also sure that Theresa May can pull it off, and usher in a new era of free trade deals.”
He continued: “But that does not mean we turn our back on Europe. We have a clear plan for Brexit - as the Prime Minister set out in her Lancaster House speech and in her letter to Council President Tusk - to get a good deal that works for both Britain and our European friends.
“One which enables Britain to work with the rest of the EU in a deep and special partnership, which can end the British question and bring stability to Europe, and which protects the interests of all our citizens on both sides of the Channel.”
Asking guests at the Mansion House to “charge our glasses with this delicious import from another EU country”, he added that it would be counterproductive to “impose tariffs or any non-tariff barrier to such imports, just as it would be to have any barriers on UK goods going to the EU”.
Mr Johnson also used his speech to highlight the importance of Britain’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on foreign aid. Last week Ms May said the spending “will remain” post-election amid a concerted effort from right-wing minister and newspapers to scale back the funds on overseas development.
“Indeed I have seen with my own eyes the good we are doing,” Mr Johnson added. “The lives we are changing, the women we are educating, with that money, and that is why perhaps this was one of the first pledges the PM renewed in this election campaign.
On Tuesday reports suggested Mr Johnson had been told to keep a low profile because he is vulnerable to challenge over his pre-referendum claims that Brexit would deliver £350 million a week to spend on the NHS.