Boris Johnson and Vince Cable trade barbs over resignation rumours

Sir Vince Cable at Essex Book Festival 2016

A war of words between Boris Johnson and Vince Cable erupted on Sunday night after the new Liberal Democrat leader made reference to rumours that the foreign secretary might be about to resign.

Johnson accused Cable of “peddling lies” about him after the Liberal MP criticised the alleged uncertainty surrounding the foreign secretary’s position in government.

Cable described the cabinet as being in a state of “civil war” because of tensions between the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, over plans for a three-year transition period for migrant workers after Brexit.

“There is no cabinet consensus for moderation,” the Lib Dem leader said. “And the rumours of Boris Johnson being about to resign fuel the uncertainty.”

In response, a spokesman for Johnson said Cable was “making stuff up” and instructed the Lib Dem leader to focus on devising his own policies. “Boris and Philip Hammond are working closely to take the the UK out of the EU and are not going to be diverted from that important task,” the foreign secretary’s spokesman said.

Cable retorted: “If the foreign secretary is working so closely with the chancellor, can he confirm that he supports the chancellor’s call for a three-year transitional deal with continued free movement of labour? So far he has been uncharacteristically silent on the subject.

“It is a simple question: does he support the position of Philip Hammond or Liam Fox? Because he can’t support both. And if Philip Hammond secures a three-year transitional deal, can Boris Johnson confirm he will stay in the government and support the policy? It is certainly bold of Boris Johnson to accuse others of lying. How is he getting along with finding that £350m a week extra he promised the NHS?”

Divisions in Theresa May’s cabinet erupted after Fox insisted that unregulated free movement of labour after Brexit would “not keep faith” with the EU referendum result. This position appears at odds with Hammond’s signal that free movement would continue for a limited period in all but name, with the added requirement that migrants would have to register in the UK.

Johnson has yet to comment publicly on Hammond’s transitional plans.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Patrick Greenfield, for theguardian.com on Sunday 30th July 2017 23.31 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010