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Boris Johnson 'wins Brexiteer battle over country residence'

Published 13/11/2016

Chevening House, which three Cabinet Ministers are sharing
Chevening House, which three Cabinet Ministers are sharing

Boris Johnson appears to have won a Cabinet tussle over the lavish grace and favour country mansion dubbed "Brexit Towers".

The palatial Chevening estate was originally to be shared between the "Three Brexiteers" comprising the Foreign Secretary, EU Exit Secretary David Davis, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, but a wrangle with trustees means that Mr Johnson has ended up as the "prime nominee".

Downing Street was keen to stress that all three Cabinet heavyweights will still have use of the prestigious 115 room mansion in Kent, but the new arrangements seem to put Mr Johnson in pole position.

The three Brexit ministers, who have often appeared to differ over the best way for the UK to re-order its complex relationship with Brussels, were originally given an upmarket "time share" arrangement by Theresa May for use of the imposing 3,500 acre estate in order to host key economic and diplomatic players who could boost the UK's post-withdrawal position.

Now No 10 has confirmed to the Press Association Mr Johnson will be the prime nominee for the property which has traditionally been given to the foreign secretary of the day for use by the PM.

But a Government spokesman insisted: " All three secretaries of state have the use of Chevening, as the Prime Minister has made clear."

The emergence of Mr Johnson as prime nominee came after trustees of the estate made a formal complaint insisting that Chevening was intended for use by a sole Cabinet minister and the "time share" arrangement was a breach of convention, according to the Mail on Sunday.

The trustees would not allow three official nominees, and as a result none of the "Three Brexiteers" has been able to stay at the mansion since Mrs May allocated it to them in July, the newspaper said.

If the deadlock had been allowed to continue Chevening could have ended up being given to a prominent Royal, such as Prince Harry, for use, the Mail on Sunday said.

Rules governing the property state that if it is not being used by a Cabinet member it must be offered to a " descendant of George VI".

The Chevening Estate Act of 1959 says the PM decides the " nominated person" to occupy the 17th Century mansion.

During the coalition government the estate was shared as a "joint tenancy" between then foreign secretary William Hague and Lib Dem deputy PM Nick Clegg.

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