Boris Johnson was blocked from accessing state secrets as foreign secretary because Downing Street believed he was a security risk

Business Insider | Jul 5, 2019, 02.34PM IST

FILE PHOTO: Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party, attends a hustings event in Manchester, Britain, June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Yates


Britain's Conservative Party's hustings event in Manchester

  • Theresa May allegedly tried to restrict Boris Johnson's access to secret intelligence when he was foreign secretary.
  • The prime minister wanted Johnson, the favourite to replace Theresa May, not to be shown some secret intelligence when he was appointed in July 2016, BBC News reported.
  • Sources said Downing Street's decision was based on a variety of factors, including a lack of trust in Johnson, and personal enmity between him and May
  • The report follows claims in 2017 that British spy chiefs were "wary" of sharing information with Johnson because they didn't trust him.

LONDON - Theresa May repeatedly withheld sensitive intelligence from Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary, because they believed he would leak the information.

The prime minister wanted the then foreign secretart to not to be shown certain sensitive secret intelligence when he was appointed in July 2016, BBC News reports, citing multiple security sources.

Downing Street's move is said to have worried security chiefs at the time because of the foreign secretary's role in authorising sensitive operations.

Johnson is the favourite in the race to replace Theresa May as Conservative leader and prime minister at the end of July.

He was aware of Downing Street's decision at the time and was "very unhappy about it," the BBC reported.

Sources close to Johnson insisted there was no row about information access and claimed he saw everything he needed to for his role.

Johnson first visited the headquarters of MI6, the government's foreign intelligence service, as foreign secretary three months after his appointment when he was shown around by its chief Alex Younger.

Johnson praised the work of the security services and said: "Even from my relatively short period as foreign secretary I can testify to how vital the work they do is."

But at the same time a row was taking place about whether Johnson should have access to all the intelligence produced by the UK's spies, the BBC reported, despite the fact ministerial responsibility lay with Johnson for MI6 and GCHQ, another branch of the intelligence service.

Boris Johnson

Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

One source described the attempt to limit Johnson's information access as "control freakery" on the part of Downing Street rather than a lack of trust in Johnson.

Another said it was a "combination of everyone's faults," citing the personal enmity between May and Johnson, as well as Johnson's lack of discipline.

The report follows claims in 2017 that British spy chiefs were "wary" of sharing information with Johnson because they didn't trust him.

The New Statesman reported at the time that multiple diplomats had doubts over Johnson's personal style as foreign secretary.

A month previously, he had said the ISIS stronghold of Sirte, the Libyan city, could be "the next Dubai" once they "clear the dead bodies away."

The party's 160,000-strong membership will vote to select either Jeremy Hunt or Johnson as the next prime minister next week.

Either candidate who needs to secure a simple majority above 50%.

Both contenders have said they are willing to leave the EU without a deal in October if Brussels is not willing to renegotiate the current withdrawal agreement.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain's departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider's political reporters. Join here.

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