In Brief

Boris Johnson tells Theresa May to ‘channel spirit of Moses’

Former foreign secretary is ridiculed for his ‘absurd’ comparison of Brexit with the biblical exodus of slaves from Egypt

Boris Johnson has courted controversy by telling Theresa May to “channel the spirit of Moses” in order to facilitate a successful Brexit process.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, the former foreign secretary said the prime minister must abandon her withdrawal agreement and tell the EU to “let my people go”, a reference to Moses fighting to free his people from slavery in Egypt.

After a week that saw Brexit delayed and an increase in tensions between the PM and MPs, Johnson said that the Government had “blinked”, “baulked” and “bottled” its negotiations to secure an agreement with the EU, declaring: “We are not leaving this Friday because the Government has chickened out.

“For almost three years every Tory MP has chirruped the mantra that no deal would be better than a bad deal. I believed that the Government was sincere in making that claim and I believed that the Prime Minister genuinely had March 29 inscribed in her heart. I’m afraid I have misread the Government.”

He suggested that May “extend the implementation period to the end of 2021 if necessary” and “use it to negotiate a free-trade deal” and “pay the fee”, but adds that she must “come out of the EU now – without the backstop”.

Johnson, who is no stranger to controversy, quickly attracted criticism for his colourful use of language. The Guardian handed the article a facetious award for “the most absurd use of a biblical metaphor”.

Labour MP Chris Bryant and Remain activist Femi Oluwole pointed out that Johnson’s biblical reference may have been misjudged.

Law professor James Chalmers of Glasgow University added:

The comments come after Johnson and May sat down for talks at a Brexit summit at Chequers, the PM’s countryside retreat, to discuss whether there was sufficient support for another vote on her withdrawal agreement.

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