British PM Boris Johnson: No way will I ask Brussels to delay Brexit

Updated: Sep 03, 2019, 08:13 IST | IANS

Just before Johnson's statement, Hilary Benn, the veteran Labour politician who chairs the House of Commons Brexit committee, gave details of a bill MPs will present when parliament reopens on Tuesday after the long summer recess

Demonstrators gather to protest against the government's move to suspend parliament in the final weeks before Brexit in Manchester, northwest England. Pic/AFP
Demonstrators gather to protest against the government's move to suspend parliament in the final weeks before Brexit in Manchester, northwest England. Pic/AFP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday night outside 10 Downing Street that there are no circumstances in which he will ask the European Union (EU) to delay his country's departure from the bloc. In a defiant message, he said he wanted "everybody to know we are leaving on 31 October, no ifs or buts."

Despite frenzied media speculation that Johnson would announce calling or threatening to call a snap general election, Johnson said he did not want an election, the Xinhua news agency reported. Instead, he issued a plea urging rebel Conservative MPs not to block Britain's chances of leaving the EU without a deal.

Johnson was speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting at Number 10 to discuss his Brexit strategy. Just before Johnson's statement, Hilary Benn, the veteran Labour politician who chairs the House of Commons Brexit committee, gave details of a bill MPs will present when parliament reopens on Tuesday after the long summer recess.

The bill is aimed at rushing a law through the British parliament to prevent Johnson from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal. It would also pave the way for extending the Brexit deadline to January 31, 2020.

In his address, Johnson said as the Brexit October deadline nears he is encouraged by the progress the government is making. "In the last few weeks the chances of a deal have been rising, I believe, for three reasons. They (the EU) can see that we want a deal. And they can see that we are utterly determined to strengthen our position by getting ready to come out regardless, come what may."

"If there is one thing that can hold us back in these talks it is the sense in Brussels that MPs may find some way to cancel the referendum," Johnson added. If MPs vote with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to delay Brexit, he warned, "they will plainly chop the legs out from under the UK position and make any further negotiation absolutely impossible."

"And so I say, to show our friends in Brussels that we are united in our purpose, MPs should vote with the government against Corbyn's pointless delay. We will not accept any attempt to go back on our promises or scrub the (2016) referendum," Johnson stressed.

The Prime Minister said he wanted negotiators to get on with their work "without that sword of Damocles over their necks...And without an election, which I don't want and you don't want." One of the first politicians to react to Johnson's speech was Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader said it was plainly obvious from the statement that Johnson has no plan to get a Brexit deal. "If MPs blink tomorrow, he will drive the UK off the no deal cliff on 31 October. He must not get away with it," she said.

Earlier, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn vowed to fight against a no-deal Brexit, and also calling for an early general election. With all eyes now sharply focused on Tuesday's events in Westminster, commentators said a game of political poker was now being played out.

Although Johnson said he did not want a general election, he has not categorically ruled one out. There is widespread speculation in London that if opposition MPs, reinforced by rebels from his own party, get the "no deal" law off the starting blocks, he may announce, as early as Wednesday, an election either side of the Oct. 31 departure deadline.

The BBC in London is reporting that Johnson would seek to call a general election vote on October 14 if MPs block a no-deal Brexit. That would come just three days before a crucial EU Council summit to discuss Brexit. If Johnson's election gamble pays off with a large majority for the Conservatives, the feeling is Brussels is likely to offer a deal.

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