LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dealt a fresh blow on Thursday when his brother Jo quit the government, saying he could no longer reconcile “family loyalty and national interest”.
Jo Johnson had campaigned strongly against Britain´s exit from the European Union in 2016, a position that put him at odds with his older and more famous brother Boris.
But he took a job in his brother´s government as universities and science minister, a position he had held previously.
“It´s been an honour to represent Orpington (a London suburb) for nine years & to serve as a minister under three prime ministers,” Jo Johnson tweeted.
“In recent weeks I´ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest — it´s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & minister.”
Like many families in Britain, the Johnsons were deeply divided over Brexit — a third sibling, Rachel, and their father Stanley also wanted to stay in the EU.
Stanley worked for the European Commission in the 1970s and then served as a Conservative MEP, while Rachel ran unsuccessfully for the European Parliament in elections this year for the anti-Brexit Change UK party.
The resignation of Jo Johnson, who like his brother Boris is a former journalist, comes after 22 MPs left the governing Conservative party this week.
One MP defected to the pro-European Liberal Democrats and 21 were expelled for voting against the prime minister´s Brexit strategy.
His also resignation comes the day after MPs voted to legislate to stop Boris Johnson taking Britain out of the European Union without a divorce deal on October 31.
The opposition Labour party seized on his departure.
Deputy leader Tom Watson tweeted: “Once again, the people who trust Boris Johnson least are the ones who know him best.”
Pollster Joe Twyman tweeted: “It´s going to be a hell of a Christmas lunch in the Johnson household”.
BBC journalist David Cornock quipped: “A rare case of a politician resigning to spend less time with his family”.