Four weeks before Conservatives go to the polls (July 22) to elect their next leader and, incidentally, the next British prime minister, Boris Johnson admits that the orderly “no deal” he is describing necessitates a deal with the EU.
In an LBC radio interview, Johnson admitted that he could not hope for a “standstill” trade relationship with the EU after Brexit unless the other 27 EU member states agreed. “What you can’t do is unilaterally use a Gatt 24 solution,” Mr Johnson admitted, “but you could agree with our EU friends and partners to go forward together on that basis.”
He said a refusal by the 27 to concede to these terms would be “bizarre,” likening the lack of consensus to Napoleon’s blockade.
When challenged with the disagreement expressed by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, who said that zero tariffs is not an option for the EU – who has to extend the same trade terms to all “third countries” unless they have a trade deal – Johnson professed that “he is wrong in thinking this is not an option; it is certainly an option.”
Johnson is seeking the support of 160,000 Conservative members, who by and large are largely Eurosceptic. Johnson went on to pledge, once again, that leaving the EU on October 31st is a “do or die” commitment, “come what may,” reiterating he would not seek to delay the deadline while making clear he would withhold the agreed payment of a £39bn Withdrawal Agreement settlement with the EU.
Mr Johnson has since been challenging his main rival Jeremy Hunt – whom he won’t debate on television – to commit that he will lead the UK outside the EU on October 31st, “no matter what.” Mr Hunt has indicated he will seek extra time if he felt he was close to getting a better deal.
“Leaving on 31st October – with no ifs, buts or maybes – is the only way to restore trust in our democracy. In short this is about whether the original people’s vote will be respected,” Jonson asserted on Twitter.
Mr Johnson has also raised eyebrows by making a series of uncosted spending pledges. A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank makes clear that a series of tax cut proposals could cost the economy £20bn and would set the budget off track.