Boris Johnson declares ‘new Brexit approach’ as he sets out no-deal plans
Boris Johnson has told MPs “today is the first day of a new approach” towards Brexit in his first appearance in the House of Commons as prime minister.
The new Conservative Party leader repeated his “absolute commitment” to the UK leaving the EU on 31 October, saying he would push ahead with Brexit on Halloween “whatever the circumstances”.
The prime minister told MPs that failing to abide by the latest Brexit deadline would see a “catastrophic loss of confidence” amongst the public.
Commenting on his new government’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit – to be overseen by his former Vote Leave colleague Michael Gove – Mr Johnson said they would be “about grasping the opportunities” for Britain’s future and “not just about technical preparations”.
He said the UK was “better prepared” for a no-deal Brexit “than many believe”.
In a bid to demonstrate his seriousness to the UK leaving the EU in less than 100 days, Mr Johnson announced the UK would not nominate a new EU commissioner “in any circumstances”.
The bloc is due to change its commission on 1 November.
The prime minister repeated that he would prefer to leave the EU with a deal, but declared the current withdrawal agreement – drafted by his predecessor Theresa May – is “unacceptable to this parliament and this country”.
He said any new deal must see the “abolition” of the controversial Irish backstop arrangement.
Mr Johnson also confirmed his plans to introduce legislation to enshrine the rights of EU citizens in legislation.
It has been suggested the prime minister’s aides see an offer on EU citizens’ rights as the way to prise open the existing withdrawal agreement, which the EU has consistently said is not up for renegotiation.
Conservative MP Alberto Costa, who has long campaigned on the issue, praised the prime minister’s proposal, which was discussed at a cabinet meeting on Thursday morning.
Mrs May had made a similar pledge to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK in any Brexit outcome.
But Mr Costa told Sky News: “The difference is this: The previous administration said they would do that, but haven’t.
“The ‘settled status’ scheme that we have has not been enshrined in law, and unless it’s enshrined in law… we cannot protect British nationals in the EU in the event of no-deal.
“If we protect EU nationals here in the event of no deal, as the prime minister has promised to do by passing law, then member states have said they will pass reciprocal laws protecting the rights of British nationals in the EU in the event of no deal.
“Now that’s good news.”
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg had earlier signalled the new government will ignore “mere motions” passed by MPs aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “I have perhaps a somewhat romantic view of the House of Commons… about how it is our job to hold the government to account, not simply to facilitate whatever the government wants to do.
“However, this House passed into law the [EU] withdrawal act and the Article 50 act.
“We only speak our view by legislation, we do not speak our view by mere motion and mere motion cannot and must not overturn statute law.
“Because if that were to happen we would not have a proper functioning representative democracy, we would have an erratic, changeable and irregular system of government.”
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