Still enough time to negotiate a Brexit deal with Brussels before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019; Prime Minister Theresa May

Boris Johnson accuses PM May of ‘dithering’ on Brexit in resignation speech. Johnson is known to have designs on leading the party, but it’s unclear how far his allies will go to see this happen.

Boris Johnson leaves his residence near Buckingham Palace in London en route to making his first speech after resigning from government last week. He said the government has ceded too much control to the EU in its Brexit plan. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson, in his first public comments since resigning last week as Britain’s foreign secretary, urged his party in the House of Commons on Wednesday to not abandon a hard Brexit approach while there’s still time.

“We have changed tack once, and we can change again,” said Johnson.

“We must try now, because we will not get another chance to get it right.”

Johnson said he was fully supportive of Prime Minister Theresa May in January 2017 when she laid out in an ambitious speech a desire to strike the right deal for Britain with the European Union after a majority of the public supported the break in a referendum months earlier.

But, Johnson said, “in the 18 months that have followed, it is though a fog of self-doubt has descended” on the government.

He referred to a “miserable permanent limbo of Chequers,” a reference to the country residence of the prime minister, where she emerged earlier this month with a plan to go forward that sought to strike a balance of the desires from both the pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings of her party.

Within three days of that party retreat, Johnson and the minister responsible for Brexit negotiations with the EU, David Davis, resigned from their cabinet posts. It brought the total of resignations from the May government in the last seven months, for various reasons, to seven.

May said Wednesday that talks had already started with Brussels based on the proposal set down in a white paper policy document earlier this month.

“The Chequers agreement, the white paper are the basis for our negotiation with the European Union and we have already started those negotiations,” she told Parliament.

May said her government has begun negotiations with the European Union based on her hard-won Brexit plan and that there was still enough time to negotiate a Brexit deal with Brussels before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

In Johnson’s view, the government has ceded too much authority to Brussels, pointing specifically to a €40 billion ($61.6 billion Cdn) exit bill Britain agreed to with the EU.

“We dithered and burned through our negotiating capital,” he said.

Asked by the head of a parliamentary committee whether she would warn the public about the consequences of a “no deal” Brexit, May answered: “You have based your question on an assumption that said we were getting closer to a no deal scenario. I don’t believe that is the case. We have put forward a proposal for what the future relationship should be … and we are in negotiations on the basis of that.”

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