Boris Johnson denies he was refused full access to intelligence by No 10 as foreign secretary

Decision attributed to ‘control freakery’ at Downing Street

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 05 July 2019 17:32 BST
Boris Johnson denies being shut out of intelligence briefings

Boris Johnson has dismissed claims that he was denied access to sensitive secret intelligence by Downing Street after he was appointed as foreign secretary.

The Conservative leadership frontrunner was reportedly refused full access to certain classified information when he joined the cabinet in 2016 amid fears he might reveal top-level secrets by accident.

Sources with “direct knowledge of events” told the BBC that Mr Johnson was cut out at Theresa May’s request, attributing the decision, in part, to “control freakery” at No 10.

The move is said to have caused concern among intelligence officials due to the foreign secretary’s role in authorising sensitive operations.

Traditionally, the prime minister has overall control over the intelligence services but the foreign secretary oversees MI6 and GCHQ on a day-to-day basis.

Mr Johnson was said to have been aware of the decision at the time and “very unhappy” about it.

However he pushed back against the reports during a leadership hustings in Darlington on Friday, saying: “It’s not true but obviously I can’t comment any further on intelligence matters.

“I am sure that the prime minister would not comment on intelligence matters either so I am extremely dubious about the provenance of this story.”

Pressed on the matter at a regular briefing for journalists, a Downing Street spokesman said: “We do not comment on intelligence matters.”

Asked if Ms May trusted Mr Johnson, she said: “Yes. It’s a matter of fact that it was the PM’s own decision to appoint Boris Johnson as foreign secretary in full knowledge of all responsibilities that that job involves.”

Nerves were sparked when Mr Johnson was accused of revealing classified information by mistake, according to The Sun.

A source said: “The PM didn’t think Boris could be trusted because he had a loose tongue. He made the agencies anxious. He wasn’t told everything because of that.

“Pre-meetings would be arranged without his knowledge before he’d come over to No 10.

“They probably both share the blame for the situation, and it was a clash of their worst traits – Boris is a big mouth and Theresa can be a paranoid control freak.”

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The row comes as the Conservative leadership race enters its final stages, with Mr Johnson widely tipped to emerge as the victor at the end of July.

He is due to appear at leadership hustings around the country over the next 48 hours, alongside his rival Jeremy Hunt.

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