Boris Johnson in ‘deep regret’ at missing Brexit deadline

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Published: November 3, 2019 6:18:18 PM

In the days ahead of the October 31 deadline, Boris Johnson had struck a new deal with the EU which removed the controversial Irish backstop, replacing it with an invisible border in the Irish Sea instead.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (File Photo).

Boris Johnson said on Sunday that it was a matter of “deep regret” for him to have missed the October 31 Brexit deadline and blamed Parliament for the delay in his election campaign fight back.

The British Prime Minister admitted that it was a “big if” that the Conservative Party would win a majority in the December 12 election but insisted that it was only a Tory government led by him that could deliver Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) within the new January 31, 2020, time frame.

“It’s (missing the Brexit deadline) a matter of deep regret,” said Johnson in an interview with Sky News.

“But what we need to do now is get on and do it, and the difference between this government and any other party is that only this government offers a deal that is ready to go and a way of delivering it immediately in the middle of December, if we’re lucky enough to get a majority and, of course, it’s a big if and we’ll be working very hard,” he said.

Pressed on whether the public could trust him to keep a promise and deliver on it, he said: “But, don’t forget the circumstances in which that happened. It happened because Parliament passed the surrender act.”

The so-called Benn Act had been branded a “surrender act” by Downing Street because it forced Johnson by law to send a letter to the EU seeking a three-month extension if a withdrawal agreement had not been cleared by the UK Parliament by mid-October.

The EU had accepted that extension request and offered the January 2020 deadline, leading to Johnson tabling a motion for a snap election next month.

All parties have launched their General Election campaigns, with the Eurosceptic Brexit Party demanding the Tories tie up with them or face the prospect of dividing the Brexit vote.

However, Johnson has ruled out the prospect of any alliance with the Nigel Farage led far-right group, leading to fears that the ruling Tories would be faced with clashes not only from the Opposition benches but also lose out on some crucial Brexit voters.

“I always thought that to win an election, get a big majority so we can get a proper Brexit, a coming-together would be the objective. I still hope and pray it happens but it doesn’t look like it will,” said Farage, who has opposed Johnson’s Brexit deal struck with the EU.

“If Boris is determined to stick to this new EU treaty, then that is not Brexit,” he said.

His stance was challenged by a key Cabinet minister in the Johnson government, Indian-origin MP Rishi Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy.

The UK Treasury minister said: “I campaigned for Leave, I spent a lot of time talking to my constituents and others across the North East and in Yorkshire – what do they want from Brexit?

“They want to end free movement and replace it with a points system, they want to end the fact that money keeps going to the EU year after year, they want to make sure we’re in control of our laws, and also they want us to have an independent trade policy. These are all things the Prime Minister’s deal deliver.”

In the days ahead of the October 31 deadline, Johnson had struck a new deal with the EU which removed the controversial Irish backstop, replacing it with an invisible border in the Irish Sea instead.

However, many sections of the House of Commons remain opposed to the renegotiated deal because they feel it treats the UK territory of Northern Ireland differently.

The Opposition Labour Party has also challenged its impact on workers’ rights.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is going to the electorate with a promise to hold a sensible discussion on Brexit with the EU and opened his campaign with a pledge on a UK-wide housing upgrade.

“By investing on a massive scale, we will usher in a green industrial revolution with good, clean jobs that will transform towns, cities and communities that have been held back and neglected for decades,” he said.

Meanwhile, the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats have lodged a formal complaint over its party leader, Jo Swinson, being excluded from head-to-head television debates in the lead up to the election.

“The voters of this country deserve to hear from a Remainer on the debate stage, not just from the two men (Johnson and Corbyn) who want to deliver Brexit. A debate between just them offers no real alternative and stifles the conversation,” said Lib Dem President Baroness Sarah Brinton.

ITV, the UK channel to host the head-to-head debate later this month, said it will also be holding another debate with the leaders of all major political parties ahead of the polls.

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