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    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrive for a meeting during the NATO summit of heads of state and government, at the NATO headquarters, in Brussels on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

    'Increasingly Unsustainable' Position: Will UK PM Sack BoJo to Save Herself?

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    British PM Theresa May must sack Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson immediately if she is to salvage her own position, following the leak of a private letter setting out his and fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove demands for a "hard" Brexit, a British politics professor told Sputnik.

    With the prospect of embarrassing defeats on vital Brexit votes looming, Mrs. May must quell the attempts by the two government ministers to dictate their own agenda, having spelled out their "Orwellian" set of demands in a joint private letter to No.10 Downing Street that was leaked on Sunday, November 12.

    Failure to do so, according to Dr. Judi Atkins, senior lecturer in politics at Coventry University, could make her own position as prime minister become "increasingly unsustainable."

    "As such, their views on the issue aren't exactly a secret, but the 'Orwellian' tone of the letter has caused concern, and, unless Theresa May disciplines them, she will appear weaker than she already is," Dr. Atkins told Sputnik.

    "With regard to Boris Johnson, he is currently on thin ice following his inaccurate comments about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. It is extremely likely that calls for his sacking will become louder, and there will be pressure on May to respond to these. This poses problems for the prime minister, as the perceived need to maintain a balance in the cabinet between Leavers and Remainers limits her options," she added.

    Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at the British Embassy during his European tour on Brexit, in Paris, France, October 27, 2017.
    © REUTERS / Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt
    Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at the British Embassy during his European tour on Brexit, in Paris, France, October 27, 2017.

    Dr. Atkins warned that the PM must also be mindful of the old adage about keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer — particularly in relation to Johnson.

    "However, with 40 Conservative MPs prepared to sign a letter of no confidence in her leadership, it is clear that her position is becoming increasingly unsustainable," Dr. Atkins told Sputnik.

    From Rivals to Best of Buddies

    Having infamously fallen out during last year's leadership campaign, the two senior ministers Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove displayed a remarkable show of unity by sending a "for your eyes only" letter to Mrs. May, insisting that she decisively moves towards a "hard" Brexit and, at the same time, limit the influence of former Remainers.

    Michael Gove addresses delegates on the final day of the annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, central England, on October 1, 2014.
    © AFP 2019 / Leon Neal
    Michael Gove addresses delegates on the final day of the annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, central England, on October 1, 2014.

    Both the Foreign Secretary and the Environment Secretary complained of "insufficient energy" being shown in some parts of the government. They also made a veiled attack on the Chancellor Philip Hammond's stance for a longer transition period, insisting that it must end in June 2021.

    In the letter, they urged the prime minister to ensure members of her top team fell behind their Brexit plans by "clarifying their minds" and called for them to "internalize the logic."

    Having already lost two members of her cabinet, Priti Patel and Sir Michael Fallon, who both resigned, and mounting pressure on deputy prime minister Damian Green over alleged pornographic material found on his laptop, Mrs. May does not have her problems to seek — and that was before news emerged of the demands being issued by Johnson and Gove.

    Priti Patel, then Britain's Secretary of State for International Development arrives in Downing Street, in London, October 31, 2017
    © REUTERS / Peter Nicholls
    Priti Patel, then Britain's Secretary of State for International Development arrives in Downing Street, in London, October 31, 2017

    'Stinks to High Heaven'

    One unnamed cabinet minister responded to the letter, expressing disgust over the language used in it.

    "Some have described it as Orwellian, and it is. It is not helpful when people try and press their views in untransparent way," they said.

    Another minister is quoted as saying:

    "I doubt they thought this would ever come out. It stinks to high heaven. May will have to dress them down or look weak."

    Reports have also suggested that 40 Conservative MPs — eight short of the number required to force a leadership challenge — have joined a list of Tory rebels who want the prime minister to resign.

    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (2R) sits next to British Prime Minister Theresa May (3R) during a meeting of the cabinet at the Prime Minister's country retreat Chequers near the village of Ellesborough in Buckinghamshire, northwest of London, on August 31, 2016.
    © AFP 2019 / Stefan Rousseau
    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (2R) sits next to British Prime Minister Theresa May (3R) during a meeting of the cabinet at the Prime Minister's country retreat Chequers near the village of Ellesborough in Buckinghamshire, northwest of London, on August 31, 2016.

    Brexit Failure Not an Option

    Meanwhile Michael Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator over Brexit, has admitted that the failure of the talks was not his preferred option.

    Earlier in November, he issued the UK with a two week deadline to provide greater clarity on the financial settlement it was prepared to offer as part of the divorce deal.

    "But it's a possibility. Everyone needs to plan for it, member states and businesses alike. We too are making technical preparations for it. On 29 March, 2019, the United Kingdom will become a third country," he said.

    The EU will hold another summit on 14 and 15 December whether to decide if sufficient progress has been made on core issues — the divorce bill, the Irish border and citizens' rights — for negotiations to advance to the next stage.

    "We want to reach an agreement [with the UK] within the next 14 working days," Barnier said.

    "Today, we are not there. The rendezvous will be postponed if progress is not sufficient."

    Related:

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    resignations, no-confidence vote, Brexit, leadership, sex scandal, UK Government, Conservative Party, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Europe, Britain, United Kingdom
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