Boris Johnson and dodgy use of statistics: A wake-up call?

Boris Johnson could resign as Foreign Secretary before the weekend if Teresa May doesn't listen to his objections to her latest Brexit plans, according to rumours.

The prime minister chose Florence to deliver her speech because it is the "historical heart" of Europe.

Johnson is understood to accept the United Kingdom paying its dues during a transition period, but not continued payments for access to the European single market on a permanent basis.

Despite the challenge to her authority, May sought to brush off the controversy during a trip to Canada on Monday, referring to his reputation for gaffes by saying "Boris is Boris".

Emmanuel Macron
GETTYTheresa is to take Brexit negotiations directly to Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

Ms May on Tuesday dismissed suggestions of a cabinet split and expressed confidence that ministers would back her ahead of Friday's speech.

In a separate interview with Sky News in New York, Johnson also denied considering resignation when he was asked by reporters if he planned to step down.

He said: 'We are working together, that is the key thing, to make sure that Britain can take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit'.

Johnson noted that if Britain continued its membership in the single market and customs union, the country would make a "complete mockery" of last year's referendum result.

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Several European leaders, including Angela Merkel, have been contacted by May's top EU adviser Oliver Robbins so they can be reassured that the prime minister's speech in Florence will contain the financial offer, the Financial Times newspaper reported.

But, in pattern that lobby journalists say is becoming increasingly obvious, Johnson has insisted that he is shocked by the fall-out from the media storm that he single-handedly whipped up.

Mr Hogan, an Irish politician who is the EU's agriculture commissioner, said in an interview with the Evening Standard, "clearly, he [Mr Johnson] is not directly involved in the negotiations on behalf of the British Government with the European Union".

The foreign secretary did not name fellow Telegraph scribe Nelson as the man who grabbed his attention with a piece titled: "There are three theories why Boris Johnson is lying low, and none is flattering".

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Veteran Tory Europhile Ken Clarke said Mr Johnson should have faced the sack for his Brexit intervention.

"Sounding off personally in this way is totally unhelpful and he shouldn't exploit the fact that [Theresa May] hasn't got a majority in parliament", Clarke said.

Phil Hogan, the Irish EU agriculture commissioner, said it was clear that the foreign secretary had become a "diminished figure" who was acting "strangely".

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