Boris Johnson says he would never have proposed EU transition deal

Dismisses allegations in Observer as ‘utterly ridiculous’ and says Brexit secretary set out facts accurately

Boris Johnson has said “it would be utterly ridiculous” for him to have lied about the demands of various party leaders for clarification of the British withdrawal plans.

The foreign secretary used a series of interviews on the BBC to dismiss allegations made in the Observer in which it said Johnson misled Theresa May by suggesting May was open to the idea of a long transitional period following Brexit.

The Observer report concluded that Johnson had embarked on a “secret mission” to force through a transition agreement that would have kept the UK in the EU single market and customs union.

Johnson said: “I think there’s a totally ridiculous paper that appeared in the Observer on Sunday. I think it would be utterly ridiculous to suggest that I would have said to the prime minister that, within the week, she was going to agree to that sort of arrangement. No, I never said that.”

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He continued: “I gave her very clear directions that any further announcements from her would have to be held in a context of what was in her speech on Friday in Florence.”

Johnson insisted he had made clear the prime minister would need a good reason to stay in the customs union in March 2019 and that any transition period should be shorter than currently promised.

Earlier the resignation of six Conservative ministers prompted the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to announce an early motion of no confidence in the prime minister, potentially creating a pre-election Tory crisis as she attempts to negotiate Brexit.

The paper’s leader writer argued that Johnson “continues to be on a mission to ruin Brexit on purpose” and said he was a liar.

But Johnson told BBC’s Andrew Marr show he was “comfortable” that he had been consistent with his approach to Brexit. “What I always made clear in my brief discussions with the prime minister was a very different position than people will recognise from [the] Observer story.”

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