LONDON — Former U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson implored fellow lawmakers Wednesday not to abandon Brexit, urging them to remember the initial enthusiasm surrounding a complete break from the European Union.

In remarks to the House of Commons, Johnson criticized Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for exiting the EU, describing it as a clean departure “in name only.” Britons should be “great independent actors” on the world stage, not “rule takers,” he said.

“It is not too late to save Brexit,” Johnson said. “We have time in these negotiations. We have changed tack once and we can change again.”

May’s government published a white paper last week with long-awaited proposals for Britain’s relations with the EU after it leaves the bloc next year. The document proposes keeping Britain and the EU in a free market for goods, with a more distant relationship for services.

The plan has infuriated fervent Brexit supporters, who think sticking close to the bloc would limit Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals around the world. Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis both quit the government in protest and May has been struggling to quell rebellions within her own ranks ever since. Lawmakers earlier confronted May during her weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons. With May’s support faltering, members of her own party, including Davis, felt emboldened to ask critical questions about her way forward.

Brexit supporter Andrea Jenkyns launched the first salvo in an open challenge to her leader, suggesting policies unveiled last week were closer to those who want to remain in the EU than to those who want to leave.

“Can the prime minister inform the House at what point it was decided that Brexit means Remain?” Jenkyns asked.

Shouts rang out across the Commons.

“At absolutely no point because Brexit continues to mean Brexit,” May replied.

Even Davis jumped into the bad-tempered exchanges, asking May to publish the legal draft of a free trade treaty. Davis’ former deputy, Steve Baker, chimed in to ask about contingency plans for a no-deal departure.

The session offered a mirror on a party deeply split and a government just scraping by to stay in power. Though Johnson did not call for May’s ouster, his remarks before the pre-recess session, will at the very least remind hardliners of the initial vision behind the referendum. Johnson suggested it was a vision May herself had shared before the “fog of self-doubt had descended.”

Johnson told lawmakers that the government had “dithered” and failed to make the case for a free trade agreement outlined in the January 2017 speech at Lancaster House in the heady months after the referendum passed. It was not the plan agreed by the government earlier this month at May’s country retreat at Chequers, he said.

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