(L to R) Rachel Johnson, Boris Johnson and Jo Johnson attend the launch of Boris Johnson's new book "The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History" at Dartmouth House on October 22, 2014 in London, England.
David M. Benett—Getty Images
By Julia Webster
September 5, 2019

Boris Johnson‘s younger brother, Jo Johnson, has resigned from his roles as Member of Parliament and cabinet minister, saying he has been “torn between family loyalty and the national interest.”

His announcement appeared on Twitter on Thursday morning. He said there was an “unresolvable tension” and that it was time to hand over his roles.

It came after his brother, the U.K. prime minister, faced a double defeat in Parliament on Wednesday, after 21 members of Johnson’s own party joined opposition lawmakers to pass a bill to prevent a “no-deal” Brexit on Oct. 31, and later turned down Boris Johnson’s request for a new election.

The Conservatives Party “rebels” who voted against the government included senior members such as former cabinet ministers Philip Hammond, Kenneth Clarke, Oliver Letwin and David Gauke––along with Winston Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames. They were expelled from the party as a result.

This decision appears to have crossed a line for Jo Johnson.

In response to his tweet, Gauke said: “Lots of MPs have had to wrestle with conflicting loyalties in recent weeks. None more so than Jo.”

 

Jo Johnson voted to remain in the E.U. in the 2016 Brexit referendum––even as his brother helped lead the campaign to leave. He resigned from his position in Theresa May’s government last year due to his opposition to the Brexit deal she agreed with with Brussels. He called her Brexit plans delusional.

He re-joined the government after his brother was elected the new leader of the Conservative Party in July. He was appointed as a minister of state within the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Writing in Medium last November, he said: “To those who say that is an affront to democracy given the 2016 result, I ask this. Is it more democratic to rely on a three year old vote based on what an idealised Brexit might offer, or to have a vote based on what we know it does actually entail?”

In an interview with the Australian newspaper in 2013, Boris Johnson, then mayor of London, compared his relationship with Jo to the rivalry between then-Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and his brother David.

“Only a socialist could do that to his brother, only a socialist could regard familial ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother. I mean, unbelievable! Only lefties can think like that,” he said of the brothers’ famous battle for the leadership of the Labour party.

Correction, Sept. 5
The original version of this story misstated Jo Johnson’s former position in government. He was a minister of state in the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, not the U.K.’s business minister.

Write to Julia Webster at julia.webster@time.com.

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