‘We have to prepare for no deal… We have to prepare convincingly for no deal,’ former Tory Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday morning.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s House of Commons vote on the EU Withdrawal Agreement, Johnson said he did not want a ‘no-deal’ Brexit or another referendum.
He said May’s Withdrawal Agreement’s Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ puts the UK in a ‘diabolical negotiating position’.
He described the backstop as ‘a legal lobster pot in which we get trapped’. Under it: ‘The EU runs our trade policy, they set laws for us, a huge chunk of our law comes from Brussels and we need to get out of it, it’s colony status.’
He went on: ‘The real problem with the backstop arrangement is that it gives the power to Brussels and to all the other EU member states effectively to blackmail us and to get what they want out of the future trade negotiations. It is a diabolical negotiating position.
‘We need to be clear with them that unless they help us there is a risk of no deal and to incentivise them further we should say that we will delay the payment of at least half the £39 billion until they’ve done a free trade deal by the end of 2020.’
In response to Marr’s claim that such a policy would be ‘political gangsterism’, Johnson replied: ‘Not at all. The House of Lords select committee made it pretty clear that the payment of this money is legally pretty arbritrary, it’s all political and down to negotiations.’ Johnson denied that he had already offered other Tory MPs jobs if they backed a future leadership bid by him against PM May as ‘nonsense’ and said that the public is not interested in ‘personalities’.
• The House of Commons vote tomorrow will not be delayed, the new Tory Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said yesterday. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said: ‘This dispute is of such a fundamental character that it may mean the end of the Conservative Party in its current form and that bothers me very much.’
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said May’s deal would cause ‘long-term damage’ and his predecessor David Davis said: ‘I don’t think Mrs May will win.
‘I think that the deal will be rejected because it’s seen by everybody to leave us as rule-takers, to leave us as a subordinate and not actually answer the questions or meet the promises either in our manifesto or in the referendum.’
PM May warned MPs yesterday that they face ‘uncharted waters’ if they reject her deal. ‘When I say if this deal does not pass we would truly be in uncharted waters, I hope people understand this is what I genuinely believe and fear could happen,’ May said.
‘It would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal. ‘We have a leader of the opposition who thinks of nothing but attempting to bring about a general election, no matter what the cost to the country.
‘As someone who cares passionately about my country and my party, I believe Jeremy Corbyn getting his hands on power is a risk we cannot afford to take.’ Tory MP Will Quince announced he is stepping down as a ministerial aide in the Ministry of Defence over May’s deal, saying: ‘I am being asked to approve a legally-binding treaty which creates such a power imbalance that it irrevocably weakens the UK’s negotiating position.’