In what has become characteristically common, Boris Johnson today renewed his attacks on the Prime Minister’s Brexit Strategy, the ‘Chequers Deal’ today. He ditched the newspaper columns and chose a much grander stage to make his case; The Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.

What Happened? 

Crowds packed into the auditorium to watch the speech delivered by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. Some even queued hours before the event started. After weeks of attacks and dissent through newspaper columns, many expected Johnson’s speech to be the big peroration where he would confirm a future leadership challenge; they were not disappointed

Boris Johnson warned that Theresa May’s “cheat” Brexit plans would leave the UK in “manacles” and lead to the dominance of the far right and far left in British politics.

The ex-cabinet minister made the claims as he also launched a broader attack on the prime minister’s policies on Brexit, crime and taxation on the third day of Conservative conference in Birmingham. The speech in front of a packed-out hall of supporters has widely seen as a pitch for the support of Tory members, ahead of an expected leadership bid in the near future. His speech was wide-ranging, covering tax plans and house building goals however, the focus of the speech was Brexit where he more explicitly called for the government to ditch the Chequers plan that led to his resignation from the government in July.

He denounced the proposals – at one point suggesting the PM risked being prosecuted under a 14th century law saying that “no foreign court or government shall have jurisdiction in this country” – describing it as an “outrage”.

Big Blow

In his most stinging attack yet on Ms May’s plans for Brexit, he said: “What the Chequers proposals show is that the United Kingdom, for all its power and might and network of influences around the world, for all its venerable parliamentary history, was ultimately unable to take back control.

“And instead of reasserting our ability to make our own laws, the UK will be effectively paraded in manacles down the Rue de la Loi like Caractacus.” 

Caractacus was a first-century British chieftan who led the resistance against the Roman Empire, but was ultimately defeated, captured and taken to Rome as a war prize.

The ex-foreign secretary went on to warn that Mschieftain May’s Brexit deal would embolden those who are campaigning for a second referendum and was a “recipe for further acrimony”.

He rejected as “total fantasy” the idea that it would be possible to “bodge” Brexit now and then negotiate a better deal after leaving in March 2019.

He said: “If we cheat the electorate – and Chequers is a cheat – we will escalate the sense of mistrust.

Mixed Reaction 

Reception Even-though Johnson’s speech drew applause and favor from those in the room, It drew mixed responses from those outside the conference. 

Here is some more comment on the Boris Johnson speech.

From the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush

Johnson’s speech was, from a technical perspective, v good I thought. But at-the the way he’s become a candidate perfectly-designed to win over Tory activists and no-one else: https://t.co/5d3sp59Xjw

From Sky’s Faisal Islam

An MP, Boris ally in 2016 asks me: “what was new in that speech??”. I say eg the words “constitutional outrage” re Chequers. He says Nothing.
He carried that fringe room spectacularly – but it’s Tory MPs he needs to get him on any ballot.

From the Spectator’s James Forsyth

Fundamental problem for Boris, and those who agree with him, is what Bonar Law said almost a century ago: ‘The party elects a leader & that leader chooses the policy, & if the party does not like it, they have to get another leader’. But they don’t have the numbers to replace her

From Sky’s Adam Boulton

Boris Johnson’s #ConservativeConference fringe speech. PM style tour d’horizon packed with sly jabs at May (& Hammond) main purpose to undermine her Brexit Strategy. If it fails that’s his best chance to takeover

From the Observer’s Michael Savage

All things considered, that was on the tame end of the damage Boris could have inflicted. A repeat of Chucking Chequers, but an imminent leadership bid? Seems unlikely. More like prep work for an “I told you so” argument.

From ITV’s Robert Peston

The first appearance of rapture at #ConservativeConference2018 – for @BorisJohnson and his war cry to chuck Chequers. @theresa_may has a problem pic.twitter.com/oD98n4R1TJ

From the Financial Times’ Sebastian Payne

That was a very comprehensive speech and beginnings of a leadership bid from @BorisJohnson. Wide ranging with a clear case for conservatism, effective evisceration of Corbyn, lapped up by the crowd. His best speech in years. So if/when does the challenge to May emerge? #cpc18

From LBC’s Iain Dale

Just been to see the Boris speech. Utterly lacklustre. Nothing new. He just can’t make a good speech when he’s trying to be statesmanlike. Couple of good jokes, ritual ‘chuck Chequers’, but where was the beef? Still at the butcher’s shop… pic.twitter.com/mkJ2U8twK6

From HuffPost’s Paul Waugh

My take on Boris Johnson’s Big Speech. Be warned, includes a NSFW T-shirt slogan. https://t.co/yJqAaihp2m

The Uxbridge MP went on to warn that Ms May’s blueprint – which ties Britain to a common rulebook with the EU for trade in goods – would be “politically humiliating for a £2tn economy” and would prevent the UK from making its own laws and subject it to the directives of Brussels.