Europe minister Alan Duncan said he did not believe that Johnson really wanted Britain to leave the EU at all
Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that Britain has plans to trigger Article 50, the formal process for leaving the European Union (EU), early next year.
"We are talking to our European friends and partners in the expectation that by the early part of next year, you will see an Article 50 letter. We will invoke that," he told Britain's Sky News television in New York.
Theresa May's Downing Street office, however, denied Johnson's comments.
"The government's position has not changed. We will not trigger Article 50 before the end of 2016 and we are using this time to prepare for the negotiations," a spokesman told AFP.
Europe minister Alan Duncan said he did not believe Johnson really wanted Britain to leave the EU at all, AFP reported.
"I've always thought that Boris' wish was to lose by one (vote) so that he could be the heir apparent," without having to deal with "clearing up all the mess", Duncan told the BBC.
Johnson has also reportedly denied suggestions that Britain would have to continue allowing free movement of people with EU if it wanted access to the European single market.
"They would have us believe that there is some automatic trade-off between what they call access to the single market and free movement. Complete baloney. Absolute baloney," AFP quoted him as saying.
"The two things have nothing to do with each other. We should go for a jumbo free-trade deal and take back control of our immigration policy."
Johnson said that even after Brexit the country would continue to play a role in pan-European defence and security measures.
"We will continue to be a participant in common European defence discussions, security, foreign policy, counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and all that kind of thing," he said.
On Thursday, May met was meeting with Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, who has urged her to trigger Article 50 as soon as possible.
"The European Parliament favours the earliest possible triggering of Article 50," he said, AFP reported.
(WION with inputs from AFP)