Philip Hammond warns Boris Johnson he isn't 'unsackable' as Brexit tensions rise at Tory conference

Anthony Pearce
Boris and Hammond picture leaving Number 10 last week (Rex)

Philip Hammond has told Boris Johnson that he could be sacked from the cabinet after he once again strayed from the official Tory line on Brexit.

Yesterday, in an interview with Andrew Marr, Theresa May failed to deny that the foreign secretary has become “unsackable” after he made another unofficial policy proposal.

May laughed at the presenter’s question, insisting that Johnson was “absolutely behind” the plan for Brexit she set out in Florence.

However, in a Sunday tabloid, Johnson revealed four Brexit “red lines” that May must adhere to, just weeks after he wrote a “10-point plan for a successful Brexit” in the Daily Telegraph. 

This morning, as day two of the Conservative Party Conference started, Hammond told the Today programme that Johnson could be sacked by May .

When asked if Johnson was “unsackable”, he said: “We all serve at the prime minister’s pleasure.

“I have to say that I’ve always operated on what I think is the prudent assumption, from a personal point of view, that no minister is unsackable.”

“The more we can show unity, the stronger our negotiating position with the European Union would be,” he added.

In the Sun on Sunday, Johnson wrote that “the transition period post-Brexit must be a maximum of two years and not a second more.”

He added that the UK “must refuse to accept new EU or ECJ rulings during transition.”

He said there must be “no payments for single market access when transition ends” and that the “UK must not agree to shadow EU rules to gain access to market.”

The prime ministers allies accused Johnson of “posturing”.

One told the Sunday Telegraph: “It’s all eminently do-able, this is just straw-man posturing from Boris to raise his profile. There’s no conflict here…”

The intervention follows Johnson’s “10-point plan for a successful Brexit”, which many saw as a thinly veiled challenge to May’s authority.

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Johnson was accused of a “clear misuse of official statistics” after he repeated the £350m-a-week EU figure, which has been proven to be false.

Sir David Norgrove, the head of the UK Statistics Authority, said he was “surprised and disappointed” to see the foreign secretary restate the claim, sparking a war of words.

On Marr, May insisted that the cabinet was united behind her Brexit plan.

“What I have is a cabinet that are united in the mission of this government, and that is what you will see this week,” she said.

She refused to say whether or not the UK would accept any changes to EU law introduced during the proposed two-year transition period — one of Johnson’s red lines.

May said this was a matter for the negotiation between the EU and UK.

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