Boris accused of Brexit 'backseat driving'

Britain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has been accused by cabinet colleagues of "backseat driving" on Brexit after setting out his own vision of the country's future outside the European Union.

Only days before Prime Minister Theresa May is due to speak in Italy about Britain's planned EU departure, Johnson on Saturday published a 4300-word newspaper article that roamed well beyond his ministerial brief and, in some cases, the approach set out by the government.

Interior Minister Amber Rudd said it was "absolutely fine" for the foreign secretary to intervene publicly but that she did not want him managing the Brexit process.

"What we've got is Theresa May managing that process, she's driving the car," Rudd told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday.

Asked if Johnson was backseat driving, she replied: "Yes, you could call it backseat driving, absolutely."

Johnson's article reignited speculation that he would challenge May for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

Rudd, however, said she did not think Johnson was laying the groundwork to challenge May.

"I think that he, like I, supports the prime minister at this difficult time as we try to conclude the negotiations with the EU," she said.

May's deputy, Damian Green, also weighed in on Sunday, saying that Johnson had written a "very exuberant" article but it is "absolutely clear to everyone that the driver of the car in this instance is the prime minister".

"It is the job of the rest of us in the cabinet to agree on a set of proposals and get behind those proposals and get behind the prime minister," Green told BBC TV.

Johnson had written in the Daily Telegraph that Britain would not pay to access European markets in the future. Once out of the EU, the country should borrow to invest in infrastructure, reform the tax code and set immigration levels as it sees fit, he said.

A prominent Brexit campaigner in last year's referendum, Johnson also repeated the Brexit campaign claim that the government would be GBP350 million ($A594 million) a week better off outside the EU.

Government officials criticised Johnson for repeating the claim, saying the figure does not take into account the funding Britain receives back from Brussels.

David Norgrove, of the UK Statistics Authority, said he was "surprised and disappointed" that Johnson was still quoting a figure that confused gross and net contributions.

"It is a clear misuse of official statistics," Norgrove said in a letter to Johnson on Sunday.

Reacting to the furore his article had generated, Johnson tweeted on Saturday: "Looking forward to PM's Florence Speech. All behind Theresa for a glorious Brexit."

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