• Thursday, Jan 23, 2020
  • Last Update : 10:10 pm

Johnson's own brother quits on eve of Brexit election campaign

  • Published at 01:31 am September 6th, 2019
WEB_Joseph-Edmund-Jhonson
Joseph Edmund Johnson Reuters

The 47-year-old, who campaigned to remain a member of the EU in the 2016 referendum while his older brother was the face of Vote Leave, has been in parliament since 2010, serving in several ministerial roles

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to kick off what is in effect an election campaign casting parliament as the enemy of Brexit was overshadowed on Thursday when his younger brother quit the government, citing the national interest.

As the United Kingdom spins towards an election, Brexit remains up in the air more than three years after Britons voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum. Options range from a turbulent 'no-deal' exit to abandoning the whole endeavour.

Ahead of a speech in northern England where the prime minister was expected to begin an informal election campaign, his own brother, Jo, resigned as a junior business minister and said he was stepping down as a lawmaker for their Conservative Party.

"In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest - it’s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles," he tweeted.

The 47-year-old, who campaigned to remain a member of the EU in the 2016 referendum while his older brother was the face of Vote Leave, has been in parliament since 2010, serving in several ministerial roles.

The move comes in a frenetic week for the premier, who said his brother had been "a brilliant, talented minister and a fantastic MP," and that the decision would not have been easy.

After wresting control of the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, an alliance of opposition parties and rebels expelled from Johnson's Conservative party voted to force him to seek a three-month delay to Brexit rather than leaving without a deal on Oct. 31, the date now set in law.

‘Trust the people’

Since taking office in July, Boris Johnson has tried to corral the Conservative Party, which is openly fighting over Brexit, behind his strategy of leaving the European Union on October 31 at all costs, with or without a deal.

On Tuesday, he expelled 21 Conservative lawmakers from the party for failing to back his strategy, including Winston Churchill's grandson and two former finance ministers.

Behind the sound and the fury of the immediate crisis, an election now beckons for a polarised country.

The main choices on offer are Johnson's insistence on leaving the EU on October 31, come what may, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's hard-left socialist vision, coupled with a promise of a fresh referendum with an option to stay in the EU.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who manages government business in the House of Commons, said parliament would be asked again on Monday, after the blocking bill becomes law, to approve a snap election. On Wednesday, lawmakers had rejected Johnson's request for an October 15 poll.

The Brexit crisis has for three years overshadowed European Union affairs, eroded Britain's reputation as a stable pillar of the West and seen sterling lunge back and forth in tune to the probability of a 'no-deal' exit.

Asked if Brexit would happen on October 31, Johnson's belligerent senior adviser Dominic Cummings, a focus of many departing Conservative lawmakers' grievances, told Reuters: "Trust the people."

Election looms

A spokesman for the prime minister said his speech would make the case that "it is now time for the people to decide after parliament has failed them, so we can resolve this once and for all".

"Jeremy Corbyn continues not only to block Brexit but is now also stopping the people having their say by refusing a general election."

The opposition Labour Party cast Johnson's language – including calling Corbyn a "chicken" – as pathetic, said he was trying to act like US President Donald Trump, and compared him to a 3-year-old toddler having a tantrum.