Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson yesterday called for Britain to completely throw off EU rules and to view Brexit as an opportunity, while refusing to deny he might quit if the government chose a different path.
Johnson, a leading campaigner behind Britain's vote to leave the European Union, used a speech in London to try to reassure the millions of Britons who wanted to stay by offering a positive vision of Brexit.
He said the project's success "will depend on what we make of it" -- and said it would be "absurd" if Britain left the bloc only to align itself with all its rules in future, without having any say in them.
"We would be mad to go through this process of extrication from the EU and not to take advantage of the economic freedom it will bring," he said in a highly-anticipated speech at a think tank in London.
"In a global marketplace... it seems extraordinary that the UK should remain lashed to the minute prescriptions of a regional trade bloc comprising only six percent of humanity," he added.
His call for a clean break with Brussels puts Johnson at odds with other members of Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet, not least her finance minister Philip Hammond, who wants Britain's economy to diverge only "modestly" from the EU.
Johnson dodged a question about whether he might resign if he disagrees with any deal struck with Brussels later this year, saying only: "We're all lucky to serve."
His speech was the first of series of high-profile ministerial addresses on Brexit, as May's divided government prepares for crucial talks with Brussels on the future trading relationship starting from April.