May to Johnson: 'Shut up and let me drive'

The prime minister has warned Boris Johnson to stop back-seat driving Brexit negotiations.

Attempting to reassert her authority following Saturday's challenge by the foreign secretary, Theresa May said "this government is driven from the front and we're all going to the same destination".

In the traditional mid-Atlantic huddle with journalists as she travelled to Canada in the government's refitted tanker plane, she also played down the significance of a speech on Brexit she will make on Friday by repeatedly describing it as part of a series of "updates" she promised at the start of the year.

Theresa May met for talks with Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa. Credit: AP

She was adamant that nothing fundamental had changed in the government's approach to leaving the EU from what she had set out as her principles at Lancaster House in January.

She confirmed that she had not given approval to the foreign secretary for the magnum-opus 4000-word vision for Brexit he set out in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday.

And she slapped down Johnson's demand that funds liberated when the UK ceases to pay into the EU budget should go to the NHS. "Decisions about what to do with those sums will be taken at the time" she said.

As for Boris Johnson's hotly disputed claim that Brexit would free up £350m a week for the health service, she again distanced herself from Johnson: "the amount we pay into the European Union changes year by year".

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In the face of criticism that her Brexit Secretary David Davis is not making adequate progress in negotiations with his EU opposite number, Michel Barnier, she said David was "doing great work".

How did she feel about Boris acting with such apparent disloyalty by setting out a personal rather than government plan for Brexit? "Boris is Boris" was May's only comment - which could be read as exasperated or contemptuous or both.

Johnson had seemed to be warning her not to agree to pay anything like as much as the widely mooted £10bn a year tariff for continued access to the EU's single market during a transition period.

But she would not speculate on what we could or should continue to pay: "what we are clear about is year on year on year we will not be sending huge sums of money into the European Union".

May has not yet spoken with Johnson about his Brexit intervention, but will do so when they meet in New York later this week at the United Nations General Assembly.