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Terms of draft Brexit deal 'unacceptable': Boris Johnson

Terms of draft Brexit deal 'unacceptable': Boris Johnson

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid attend the first Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Britain, Jul 25, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Aaron Chown)

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday (Jul 25) described the terms of the current draft Brexit deal as "unacceptable" and called on Brussels to rethink its refusal to renegotiate.

Johnson also said his new government would set as a "top priority" preparations for exiting without an agreement if there is no deal with the European Union by the Oct 31 deadline.

"I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal - I would much prefer it," he told parliament a day after taking over as prime minister from Theresa May following a leadership contest in the governing Conservative party.

"I believe that it is possible even at this late stage and I will work flat out to make it happen," he said.

READ: UK PM Johnson tells ministers: We are all committed to leaving EU by Oct 31

But he added: "The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this house. Its terms are unacceptable to this parliament and to this country."

Johnson also confirmed that Britain would not nominate anyone to the European Commission which takes office on Nov 1.

Johnson added that he believed the European Union would have every reason to want to compromise with Britain over its departure from the bloc.

Johnson has said he will try to wrest changes from the EU over the deal negotiated by May to make it more palatable to parliament, otherwise Britain will leave without a deal.

The EU has said the divorce deal, or Withdrawal Agreement, is not up for renegotiation.

"Why begin by assuming that our EU friends will not wish to compromise? I think they have every reason to want to compromise, and that is what we will seek," Johnson told parliament. 

IRISH BACKSTOP MUST BE ABOLISHED

Johnson also told the EU that the Irish border backstop would have to be struck out of the Brexit divorce agreement if there was to be an orderly exit with a deal.

Johnson told parliament the Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, must be abolished.

"It must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop," Johnson said in his first speech as prime ministers.

The Irish backstop is contained in a protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement which May agreed to in November.

It is the most contentious part of the deal for British lawmakers who fear it will slice Northern Ireland off from the rest of the United Kingdom. Johnson's government does not have a majority in parliament so rules with the help of 10 Northern Irish lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party, who vehemently oppose the backstop.

When asked about Johnson's comment, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he looked forward to discussing the issue with Johnson. Varadkar yesterday said Johnson's pledge of a new Brexit deal was "not in the real world".

READ: British PM Boris Johnson overhauls Cabinet with Brexit hardliners

Johnson's dramatic rise to Britain's top job sets the world's fifth largest economy up for a showdown with the EU and a potential constitutional crisis - or election - at home, as lawmakers have vowed to thwart a no-deal Brexit.

He has promised to do a new Brexit deal with the bloc in less than 99 days but has warned that if EU leaders refused - something he said was a "remote possibility" - then Britain would leave without a deal, "no ifs or buts".

"Our mission is to deliver Brexit on the 31st of October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth," Johnson told UK lawmakers.

Johnson's bet is that the threat of a no-deal Brexit will persuade the EU's biggest powers - Germany and France - to agree to revise the divorce deal that May agreed last November but failed to get ratified.

NEW BREXIT DEAL?

The EU has so far repeatedly refused to countenance rewriting the Withdrawal Agreement but has said it could change the "Political Declaration" on future ties that is part of the divorce deal.

If EU leaders refuse to play ball with Johnson and he moves towards a no-deal Brexit, some British lawmakers have threatened to thwart what they cast as a disastrous leap into economic chaos.

In those circumstances, Johnson could call an election in a bid to override lawmakers.

Johnson began his time in office by decisively sweeping away May's cabinet in one of the biggest culls of senior government jobs in recent British history.

Earlier on Thursday the prime minister held his first full meeting of the cabinet, in which Brexiteers now dominate the senior posts.

READ: Hair apparent: Boris locks key to political brand

"Night of the Blond Knives," said The Sun, Britain's most-read newspaper, a reference to the colour of Johnson's dishevelled mop of hair and the changes to his government.

A total of 17 ministers in May's government either resigned or were sacked, creating a powerful new group of enemies in parliament. Most of Johnson's senior appointees are Brexit supporters.

Sajid Javid, 49, was named as his finance minister. He is a eurosceptic who voted to remain in the 2016 referendum.

Others are avowed Brexiteers: Priti Patel was appointed interior minister, Dominic Raab was appointed foreign minister and Stephen Barclay remained as Brexit minister.

Johnson also appointed Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of the official Brexit Vote Leave campaign, as a senior adviser in Downing Street.

Source: AGENCIES/zl

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