World / Politics

Johnson set to defy ban on no-deal Brexit and fight on in court

Bloomberg, AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to defy a new law designed to stop him from forcing the U.K. out of the European Union with no deal next month, and is bracing for a fight to settle Brexit in the courts.

According to a senior official in the government, Johnson has decided on a hard-line plan as he prepares for his first face-to-face negotiations with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday.

He is vowing to do everything he can to secure a divorce deal with the EU and ratify it in Parliament before the deadline for leaving expires on Oct. 31. But he will tell Juncker that there is just one month left to finalize that agreement and that he won’t ask for a delay if the negotiations are fruitless.

Johnson will ignore a new U.K. law requiring him to ask the EU for Brexit to be postponed and will prepare to fight his opponents, including Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, in court.

If no agreement is reached with EU leaders at the summit in Brussels on Oct. 17 and 18, the government will pursue a no-deal Brexit, the official said.

“Don’t be fooled by Corbyn and the ringleaders — on the one hand they say I don’t want a deal, on the other they want to force me to extend,” Johnson said in a statement. “Both are wrong. I am straining to get a deal, but I will also end the uncertainty and take us out on the 31 October.”

The prime minister’s hardened stance dramatically raises the stakes in the U.K.’s political and constitutional crisis over its tortured exit from the EU. Three and a half years after the U.K. voted to leave the trading bloc, it is no closer to completing the divorce in a way that avoids the chaos of a sudden rupture without an agreement to soften the blow.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron launched a blistering attack on Johnson in extracts of his memoirs published Sunday, accusing him of only backing Brexit to further his career.

He said Johnson believed that campaigning for the U.K. to leave the European Union during the 2016 referendum would make him the “darling” of their Conservative Party.

Damningly, he also said that Johnson privately believed there should be a second referendum to confirm the terms of Brexit — something the prime minster has strongly resisted in public.

In extracts published in the Sunday Times, Cameron — who led the failed “remain” campaign to stay in the EU — also accused his “leave” rivals of lying to the public.

He wrote that Johnson and one of his top ministers, Michael Gove — a former close friend of Cameron’s — “became ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism” during the campaign.

Cameron, 52, has until now largely kept out of the public eye since stepping down in the wake of the historic Brexit vote.

Members of Parliament on all sides of the political spectrum have watched Johnson’s approach with growing alarm. Earlier this month, MPs took matters into their own hands, inflicting a series of defeats on Johnson in an attempt to force him to moderate his strategy.

Late Saturday, Johnson suffered another defection as former universities minister Sam Gyimah switched to join the Liberal Democrats, accusing the prime minister of “playing fast and loose” with the constitution. He is the sixth lawmaker to move to the Lib-Dems in recent weeks.

As part of the government’s strategy, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom announced plans for a national roadshow to help businesses prepare for life after Oct. 31. The first event will be in Northampton, England, on Sept. 16. “Businesses have told us that they also want more face-to-face support and we are listening,” Leadsom said.

Johnson says he wants an agreement. Talks are still stalled on the contentious issue of the Irish border backstop, a policy intended to ensure there are no checks on goods crossing the U.K.’s land border with Ireland.

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