This is not the man for Prime Minister
Boris Johnson launched his leadership campaign Wednesday by promising to deliver Brexit as a prelude to healing “divisions” in the country, but made clear he was absolutely opposed to taking Britain fully out of the European Union in a no-strings-attached “hard” withdrawal.
Talking to an audience of Conservative members of parliament and journalists in central London Wednesday morning, Mr Johnson said he was both strongly against a full Brexit, but simultaneously wished the government to prepare for the eventuality so he could use it as a bargaining chip in Brussels in a mooted renegotiation.
Pouring criticism on Prime Minister Theresa May and Parliament’s present approach to Brexit, which has been to be ruling out a full Brexit altogether — and hence depriving British negotiating teams with the key option of walking away from Brussels — Mr Johnson said of his plan: “I am not aiming for a no-deal outcome.
“I don’t think that we will end up with any such thing, but it is only responsible to prepare vigorously and seriously for no deal, indeed it is astonishing that anyone could suggest dispensing with that vital tool of negotiation.”
Nevertheless, Mr Johnson emphasised how important he believed delivering Brexit was to the British people, and to the health and prosperity of the country. Warning Parliament that its members faced “mortal retribution” if they continued to block Brexit — which has already been delayed twice and now due to take place seven months late in October — Mr Johnson said: “Now is the time to remember our duty to the people, and the reasons for the Brexit vote”.
“It wasn’t just about democracy, although that was fundamental. It wasn’t just about immigration although people were entirely reasonable in wanting national controls… now is the time to unite this country, and unite this society. And we cannot begin that task until we have delivered on the primary request of the people, the big thing that they asked us to do. After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October the 31st.”
In comments foreshadowed by the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who introduced Boris Johnson to the stage at the launch event by warning that the Conservatives needed a leader who could fight both Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and the ascendent Brexit leader Nigel Farage, Johnson gave a taste of the punishment at the hands of the people they could expect if they continued to frustrate Brexit.
Johnson said: “I think if we now block it collectively as Parliamentarians we will reap the whirlwind and we will face mortal retribution from the electorate. The real existential threat that I now think faces both parties if we fail to get this thing done. And I think that in the end maturity and a sense of duty will prevail.”
Johnson’s comments came as now polling showed the potency of the Brexit Party in a future general election, with voters predicted to abandon the Conservatives in huge numbers if the party elected a leader who wasn’t firm on withdrawing from the European Union. Speaking Tuesday night on the state of the Conservative leadership challenge, Nigel Farage warned against the Conservatives betraying the British people again, saying it would be a “catastrophe” for them to do so.
Considering the damage the Conservatives had done to themselves so far by failing to deliver Brexit, Mr Farage asked rhetorically: “do these people inhabit the same planet as their voters? Do they have any idea what a second betrayal will do to their party?
“…They are completely detached from millions of their voters. If they don’t take us out on October 31st, what is the point of the Conservative Party?”
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