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Boris Johnson warns against extended transition period after Brexit

The Foreign Secretary denied he was trying to be a “back seat driver” in the Brexit negotiations.

A defiant Boris Johnson has insisted there can be no extended “transition” period after Britain leaves the EU as Theresa May sought to stamp her authority on her Cabinet over the Brexit negotiations.

The Prime Minister said the talks were being “driven from the front” after the Foreign Secretary’s dramatic weekend intervention setting out his vision for life outside the EU in a 4,000-word newspaper article.

Attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mr Johnson denied accusations by furious colleagues that he was trying to act as a “back-seat driver” in the talks with Brussels before a keynote speech by Mrs May in Florence on Friday.

However, in an interview with BBC News, he again reiterated his demands the UK should not have to make “extortionate” payments to Brussels for continued access to EU markets and that any transitional arrangements should be strictly time-limited.

Mr Johnson also side-stepped a question on whether he would resign if he did not get his way, saying: “You are barking slightly up the wrong tree here.”

The two now face an awkward reunion in New York on Tuesday, when the Prime Minister flies in to join the United Nations following talks in Ottawa with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

Speculation has been mounting she will use her Florence speech to offer to pay tens of billions of pounds to the EU during a two to three-year transition deal after the UK’s formal exit in 2019 to break the deadlock in negotiations.

Speaking to reporters on board her flight to Canada, the Prime Minister said the Cabinet was fully united behind her approach to the Brexit talks.

“This government is driven from the front and we are all going to the same destination, because we are all agreed on the basis of the Lancaster House speech,” she said.

“We are all agreed as a government about the importance of ensuring the right deal for Britain, the right withdrawal agreement, but also the right deal on a special partnership between the EU and UK for the future.”

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(PA graphic)

She also notably failed to offer support to Mr Johnson with the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority after he revived the controversial claim that Brexit would release £350 million a week which could be spent on the NHS.

For his part, the Foreign Secretary said he accepted that Mrs May was in charge of the negotiations while playing down suggestions that he was at odds with key Cabinet colleagues such as Chancellor Philip Hammond and Brexit Secretary David Davis.

He said that his article in The Daily Telegraph had been intended as an “opening drum roll” to Mrs May’s Florence speech.

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Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attends a meeting during the United Nations General Assembly. (Seth Wenig/AP)

“There is one driver in this car. It’s Theresa. What I am trying to do is sketch out what I think is the incredible exciting landscape of the destination ahead,” he said.

“Let’s not try and find rows when there really aren’t rows. I think it is a good thing to have a bit of an opening drum roll about what this country can do.”

He made clear, however, that he stood by his arguments over the transition period.

“It is pretty important that it shouldn’t be too long,” he said.

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