Boris Johnson says any further delaying attempts will do ‘lasting and catastrophic’ damage to people’s trust
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Friday that any attempt by M.P.s next week to stop Brexit or delay it beyond Oct. 31 would do “lasting damage” to public trust in politics.
Johnson said Britons had decided to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum and M.P.s had promised multiple times to uphold that decision. “If we stop the U.K. from leaving on Oct. 31, if that’s what parliamentarians end up doing, it will do lasting damage to people’s trust in politics,” he told Sky News television. “It will do lasting and catastrophic damage to the major parties in this country. This political generation won’t be forgiven for failing to honor that promise.”
Opposition M.P.s and some lawmakers from Johnson’s own Conservatives have said they will legislate to prevent a no-deal Brexit, which the government’s own assessment warns could cause food, fuel and medicine shortages. But Johnson said preparing for a no-deal Brexit would allow the government to clinch an agreement with Brussels.
“I’m afraid that the more our friends and partners think… that Brexit could be stopped… the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need,” he said.
Johnson on Wednesday moved to suspend parliament in the final weeks before Brexit in what was widely seen as a move to limit the parliamentary time for his opponents.
Queen Elizabeth II, on his advice, gave the go-ahead to shutter parliament between mid-September and Oct. 14—just two weeks before the Brexit date of Oct. 31. The move sent shockwaves through British politics, triggering a furious outcry from pro-Europeans and M.P.s opposed to a no-deal exit.
Wrong-footed, Johnson’s opponents labeled the suspension of parliament a “coup” and a “constitutional outrage.” The decision is being challenged in several legal cases.
A Scottish judge on Friday rejected a request for a temporary block on the suspension decision but will hear the full case at a further hearing Tuesday.
Former prime minister John Major, a strong supporter of E.U. membership, and Jo Swinson, the leader of the Europhile Liberal Democrats, both said they would join a separate case in London. It is due to be heard in court on Thursday.
Britain’s Brexit negotiators are to meet their E.U. counterparts twice a week throughout September, with Johnson saying he wants to “step up the tempo” in talks to find a compromise.
Meanwhile Michael Gove, the minister charged with preparing for no deal, visited the port town of Calais in northern France on Friday. He could be heard reiterating to French counterparts that Britain intended to allow most goods to enter tariff-free if the two sides fail to agree a divorce agreement.
London wants the so-called backstop, the fallback provisions regarding the Irish border, scrapped. But the E.U. appears unconvinced Britain will be able to come up with realistic alternatives.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said they were willing to work “24/7 throughout this long process.”
“We expect the U.K. to come forward with concrete proposals, as President [Jean-Claude] Juncker made clear to Prime Minister Johnson earlier this week.”
The backstop is included in a divorce deal that the E.U. agreed with Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, which Britain’s parliament has rejected three times. Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Britain had come up with “nothing credible” to replace the backstop.
Beyond the courts, Johnson’s opponents are planning other moves to thwart him.
Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s chief legal adviser, warned on BBC radio: “We will use any means necessary to prevent this undemocratic behavior—that includes people taking to the streets.” Small protests took place in British cities on Friday, with bigger demonstrations planned Saturday, and some organizers calling for roads and bridges to be occupied.
The leaders of the six opposition parties in parliament said they believed a majority of M.P.s were against Johnson’s move. “The prime minister is shutting down parliament with the sole aim of stopping M.P.s from avoiding a no-deal Brexit,” they said on the suspension.
Opponents want to legislate to prevent a no-deal departure and stop parliament’s suspension, and are also mulling a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s government, which commands a majority of just one.