UK minister Jo Johnson quits over 'terrible' Brexit plan

Jo Johnson, the younger brother of Boris Johnson, said on Friday he was quitting Theresa May's government over her "delusional" Brexit plans.

In his resignation statement, Johnson said the withdrawal agreement being discussed by the European Union and British leaders would be a "terrible mistake" that would leave Britain weaker economically and with "no say" in EU rules it must follow, and years of uncertainty for business.

Read more: EU: No Brexit deal without Irish backstop

Second referendum

Johnson — who backs Britain remaining in the EU — said he is supporting calls for a second referendum on whether the country should leave the bloc.

"Given that the reality of Brexit has turned out to be so far from what was once promised, the democratic thing to do is to give the public the final say. This would not be about re-running the 2016 referendum, but about asking people whether they want to go ahead with Brexit now that we know the deal that is actually available to us, whether we should leave without any deal at all or whether people on balance would rather stick with the deal we already have inside the European Union."

British PM Theresa May's office on Friday reiterated her position that there will not, under any circumstances, be a second referendum.

Brothers Johnson

Johnson's older brother Boris spearheaded the pro-Brexit campaign and quit as foreign secretary in July over May's Brexit blueprint. Following Jo's resignation, Boris tweeted about his admiration for his sibling.

"Jo Johnson is right to resign over the Withdrawal agreement which does not deliver on the referendum but creates a vassal state. It does not need a second referendum but backbone to deliver Brexit," tweeted Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading pro-Brexit lawmaker in Theresa May's Conservative Party.

"We've been hurtling towards a blindfolded Brexit for too long, so it's about time that politicians hand back control to the people of this country by giving them the final say on Brexit — with the option to stay and lead in Europe," said Eloise Todd of the Best for Britain anti-Brexit campaign.

Looming deadline

British and EU negotiators had hoped for a final Brexit agreement by October, in order to allow time for ratification by European and British parliaments before a March 29, 2019 deadline. There are several sticking points, however, most notably the status of the border between Northern Ireland, a UK territory, and the Republic of Ireland.

In a 2016 referendum on EU membership, Britons voted 52-48 percent to leave the bloc.

kw/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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