Boris Johnson has claimed Brexit negotiations are rigged, with “the inevitable outcome [of] a victory for the EU”.
In what many in Westminster speculate as the beginning of a plot to try and oust the prime minister, the former foreign secretary insisted the UK is “lying flat on the canvas” in withdrawal talks.
He claims the UK has already issued a message of surrender over Chequers proposals to align UK standards on goods to the EU, saying Britain has “gone into battle with the white flag fluttering over our leading tank”.
Mr Johnson claims the negotiations are rigged.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he says: “Out of their corners come Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier, shrugging their shoulders and beating their chests – and I just hope you aren’t one of those trusting souls who still thinks it could really go either way.
“The fix is in. The whole thing is about as pre-ordained as a bout between Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy; and in this case, I am afraid, the inevitable outcome is a victory for the EU, with the UK lying flat on the canvas and 12 stars circling symbolically over our semi-conscious head.”
Mr Johnson says that the real “scandal” is “not that we have failed, but that we have not even tried” on Brexit.
He accused “some” of the government of deliberately using the Irish border situation to “stop a proper Brexit”.
The attack comes the day after Mrs May wrote in the same newspaper that she said she was “confident” that the government could strike “a good deal” and in the event of a no-deal Britain would “be ready if we need to be” and “go on to thrive”.
With Parliament returning from its summer break on Tuesday, speculation that the PM will face a coordinated effort from Tory hardline Brexiteers to abandon her exit agenda has been rife.
Election strategist Sir Lynton Crosby is involved in a “chuck Chequers” campaign, it has been reported.
Mr Johnson says Britain faced getting “two thirds of diddly squat” for its divorce bill in response to Mr Barnier’s comments that he “strongly opposed” the Chequers proposals because such “cherry-picking” would mean the end of the European project if enacted.
Mr Johnson says: “They may puff about ‘cherry-picking’ the single market. There may be some confected groaning and twanging of leotards when it comes to the discussion on free movement. But the reality is that in this negotiation the EU has so far taken every important trick.
“The UK has agreed to hand over £40bn of taxpayers’ money for two thirds of diddly squat.
“We will remain in the EU taxi; but this time locked in the boot, with absolutely no say on the destination. We won’t have taken back control – we will have lost control.”
The comments followed claims from former Brexit secretary David Davis that Mrs May had positioned herself for “open sesame” on further Brexit climbdowns after saying she would not be pushed into compromises “that are not in our national interest”.
Mr Davis branded the Chequers blueprint as being “actually almost worse than being in” the EU.
Meanwhile, research carried out for pro-European group Best for Britain, indicated there could be a majority for Scottish independence in Scotland following Brexit.
Additionally, today sees the launch of a new campaign group called Women for a People’s Vote.
The group aims to “put women’s voices at the front” of the Brexit debate, as a YouGov poll commissioned by the People’s Vote Campaign finds only 13% of women think it is likely that Britain will get a good Brexit deal.