Johnson assaults May's Brexit plan at fractious party meeting

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BIRMINGHAM, England-British Prime Minister Theresa May's arch rival Boris Johnson laid out a challenge to her leadership, touting his credentials to become the U.K.'s next leader amid a deep rift within the Conservative Party over the government's approach to Brexit.

Theresa May has vowed to end austerity and pump money into public services but only if the divided Conservative Party backs her Brexit plans.

On the eve of her speech, Boris Johnson infuriated the Prime Minister with a cultivated media scrum and then delighting his supporters with a speech in which he set out his personal Tory leadership manifesto and savaged her Chequers plan.

When asked before the fringe event how she had been getting on with Mr Johnson, the prime minister laughed and told BBC One's Breakfast: "Well, I'm sure that's going to be a very lively event".

But he warned: 'If we cheat the electorate - and Chequers is a cheat - we will escalate the sense of mistrust.

May has shown little sign of moving away from her blueprint, and had tried to put on a show of unity at her party conference in the central English city of Birmingham.

The Prime Minister will say that as Britain faces this "moment of opportunity", the Conservatives will always act in the "national interest" and put the needs of hard-working people first.

"We will give credence to those who cry betrayal, and I am afraid we will make it more likely that the ultimate beneficiary of the Chequers deal will be the far right in the form of UKIP".

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said people were "concerned about Mr Johnson's behaviour".

Johnson, the figurehead for the campaign to leave the European Union and the bookmakers' favourite to replace May, has become the loudest critic, warning Conservatives that if they supported Chequers they could be signing up to the party's electoral death.

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In an upbeat passage in her speech, she will say: "I passionately believe that our best days lie ahead of us and that our future is full of promise".

Barely a month has gone by when there is not speculation of a plot against her, much of it focused around Johnson, a leading Brexit campaigner and former mayor of London.

'My fellow Conservatives, this is not democracy.

In his letter to Brady, Duddridge said that he is normally a loyalist, and has never voted against the government until now.

Ms. May has held back on criticizing Mr. Johnson, but on Tuesday, she said his speech had made her "cross".

He said: "Building a bridge between mainland Britain and Ireland, the latest intervention of Boris Johnson, who normally burns bridges instead of building them".

Accusing Mr Johnson of lacking the attention to detail to succeed in "grown-up politics", he dismissed the "super-Canada" Brexit deal favoured by the former foreign secretary as a "fantasy world" plan.

Mr Johnson used his appearance on Tuesday to make the case for greater economic freedom after Brexit and lower taxes. "We need to support the Prime Minister, but we're out to change the policy".

"We can have a transformational leader".

The wide-ranging speech was widely seen as Johnson's audition for May's job before the party faithful at their annual gathering.