Suspicions are aroused by Boris Johnson leak as he upstages Theresa May again
Timed perfectly to undermine the PM, just how did the BoJo tape find its way into the public domain?
The more Machiavellian brains in Westminster are wondering how a recording of the Foreign Secretary shooting his mouth off about Brexit, Russia and North Korea found its way on to the front pages today.
The comments, made at a private dinner with a group of around two dozen Tory donors, on Wednesday night have put Boris back at the centre of the news agenda after fellow Brexiteer big beast David Davis hogged the limelight earlier in the week with rumours he'd resign. Theresa May touched down in Canada for the start of the G7 summit there to find her big announcement on Russia that she might have hoped would lead Saturday's news had already been revealed in the Boris tape. The Foreign Secretary previously spiked his boss's guns last autumn by setting out his vision of Brexit just before she was due to make her Florence speech setting out her thoughts on the way forward.
This week's dinner was organised by Thatcherite organisation Conservative Way Forward. There seems no obvious reason for any of the participants to record the event - which was held on Chatham House rules meaning what was said could be shared but not who said it - and then distribute it.
Former Ed Miliband aide Lord Wood took to Twitter to suggest Boris might have engineered the leak himself. Other commentators on social media suggested that claim was credible given the contents of the conversation are likely to boost his credentials with Conservative party members.
The recording produced a plethora of news lines. Johnson claimed that Donald Trump would make a success of Brexit negotiations and that the US administration had asked for UK help in dismantling North Korea's nuclear capablity. Both comments put him closer to Washington leadership than Theresa May who has been snubbed by Trump at the G7, the US President holding one-to-one meetings with French leader Emmanual Macron and Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau instead.
Johnson revealed that the PM will discuss plans to tackle Russian interference in other states with her fellow G7 leaders today. An international rapid response unit is being planned to 'call out' Russian propaganda.
He also warned that Brexit was likely to leave the UK within EU's 'orbit' and that the Treasury was the 'heart of Remain'. He compared fears that the borders will become jammed after Brexit with huge tailbacks of lorries to scare stories about the 'millennium bug' in the run up to the year 2000. He described the worst case scenarios as "absolute nonsense" but admitted there will be "bumps in the road". He also accepted that his preferred 'max-fac' option for border controls after Brexit would cost the economy billions of pounds but said the HMRC figure of a £20billion hit was out by a factor of 10 or 20.
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