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UK Prime Minister sees ‘collaboration’ between Brussels and anti-Brexit MPs

LEEDS: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (22nd right), Britain’s Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland (2nd left), and Governor of HMP Leeds Steve Robson (right), are shown a torso and body scanner by a member of prison staff during a visit to HM Prison Leeds. – AFP

LONDON: Prime
Minister Boris Johnson yesterday said Brussels and Brexit-blocking MPs were
guilty of a “terrible collaboration” that would force Britain towards
a no-deal exit from the EU. He accused the European Union of taking an
uncompromising position towards London because it believes Brexit can be
stopped in the British parliament.

Taking questions
from the public live on Facebook-a first for a British PM-Johnson said Brussels
needed to compromise to avoid the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October
31. It came after former finance minister Philip Hammond slammed Johnson’s
“wrecking” approach to negotiations, saying the new PM had set
Brussels an impossibly high bar to meet, in demanding the complete removal of
its fallback provisions.

“There’s a
terrible collaboration going on between people who think they can block Brexit
in parliament and our European friends,” Johnson said. “They are not
compromising at all on the withdrawal agreement… because they still think
that Brexit can be blocked in parliament,” he said. “The awful thing
is that the longer that goes on, the more likely it is, of course, that we will
be forced to leave with a no-deal Brexit.”

The British
parliament three times rejected the divorce deal negotiated between Brussels
and Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May. Many MPs were troubled by the
“backstop”-a mechanism that would keep the UK in EU customs
arrangements to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. Johnson said he
did not want a no-deal Brexit but Brussels had to give ground in order to avoid
it. “The more they think there’s a chance Brexit can be blocked in
parliament, the more adamant they are in sticking to their position,” he
said.

No-deal
‘betrayal’: Hammond

Earlier, Hammond
said a no-deal Brexit would betray Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the EU.
Hammond, who quit as chancellor just hours before Johnson took over from May on
July 24, said there was no popular or parliamentary mandate for a no-deal
Brexit, saying most people wanted an orderly exit from the EU. “No-deal
would be a betrayal of the 2016 referendum result. It must not happen,” he
wrote in The Times newspaper.

He said it could
turn Britain into “a diminished and inward-looking little England”.
Hammond said the shift of position from seeking changes to the backstop to
demanding its complete removal “is a pivot from a tough negotiating stance
to a wrecking one”. “This is a demand the EU cannot, and will not, accede
to,” he wrote. “It’s time for our government to demonstrate its
commitment to a genuine negotiation with the EU to achieve a deal.”

Hammond said a
no-deal Brexit would risk breaking up of the United Kingdom. He also warned
that if parliament wanted to go down a particular route to prevent a no-deal
Brexit, the means would emerge to allow that to happen. John Bercow, the
speaker of parliament’s lower House of Commons, warned separately he would
“fight… with every bone in my body” against any attempt by Johnson
to suspend parliament to force through no-deal against MPs’ wishes. The Commons
“must have its way”, he told an audience at the Edinburgh Festival
Fringe, according to The Daily Telegraph newspaper.- AFP

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