Ex-universities minister Jo Johnson resigns over Brexit ‘crisis’

Ardent pro-European calls for government to ‘go back to the people’

November 9, 2018
Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science
Source: PA
Jo Johnson, minister for universities and science

The former universities minister, Jo Johnson, has resigned from the UK government in protest about Brexit, calling for the decision on the nation’s future to “go back to the people”.

Mr Johnson, an ardent pro-European who campaigned strongly for Remain, warned that “Britain stands on the brink of the greatest crisis since the Second World War”. 

His resignation could prove to be pivotal if it rallies fellow pro-Remain Tory MPs.

The ex-minister, moved from universities to transport in a January reshuffle after steering through the Higher Education and Research Act, posted a video online, in which he said that the nation was “barrelling towards an incoherent Brexit”.

He also called for the government to “go back to the people and check” as to whether they wish to continue on the current “extraordinary” path.

Mr Johnson, whose brother Boris led the Leave campaign, also posted a blog in which he said it has “become increasingly clear to me that the withdrawal agreement, which is being finalised in Brussels and Whitehall even as I write, will be a terrible mistake”.

He added: “The first option is the one the government is proposing: an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business. The second option is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit that I know as a transport minister will inflict untold damage on our nation.”

Mr Johnson said that Brexiteers’ hopes “for ‘the easiest trade deal in history’ have proved to be delusions”.

He wrote: “I reject this false choice between the PM’s deal and ‘no deal’ chaos. On this most crucial of questions, I believe it is entirely right to go back to the people and ask them to confirm their decision to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, to give them the final say on whether we leave with the Prime Minister’s deal or without it.”

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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