What is Boris Johnson’s plan for Brexit?

New PM refuses to rule out no-deal but insists he can negotiate withdrawal agreement

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson leaves his office at the end of his leadership campaign this week
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson this week became the UK’s 77th prime minister, putting the country's EU withdrawal negotiations firmly in his hands.

Britain’s new leader has sold himself as the only candidate who can succeed where Theresa May could not, by delivering Brexit on time - with or without a deal.

Delivering his first speech as PM outside Downing Street on Wednesday, Johnson vowed to take personal responsibility for getting the UK out of the block, saying “never mind the backstop, the buck stops here”.

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In an address “bound to sting his predecessor”, according to Sky News, the former foreign secretary insisted that he would come up with a new Brexit deal and disprove “the doubters, the doomsters and the gloomsters”.

Clues as to what this might mean in practice may be gleaned from interviews given by Johnson during the Tory leadership campaign.

“We are getting ready to come out on 31 October. Come what may,” he told talkRADIO in June, as he prepared to go head-to-head against rival candidate Jeremy Hunt in the run-off vote by Tory members. Asked to clarify his stance, Johnson simply repeated: “Do or die. Come what may.”

By using the phrase, he “appeared to signal there was an increasing prospect of a no-deal Brexit three months after he would take office”, says The Guardian.

This threat of no-deal continues to loom large over Westminster, with European politicians warning that there can be no renegotiation of May’s proposed withdrawal agreement, defeated three times in the UK parliament.

This week, German MEP David McAllister - a member of Angela Merkel’s CDU party - said that the German chancellor and other EU leaders were “adamant that the Brexit withdrawal agreement will not be reopened”, the London Evening Standard reports.

Johnson had insisted during his talkRADIO interview that a new government “with a new mandate, a new optimism [and] a new determination” could leave the EU with an amended deal.

But in a nod to the prospect of an unyielding Brussels, he added that he would “prepare vigorously and seriously” to leave the EU without an agreement, and warned that the survival of the Conservative Party depended on delivering Brexit.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Johnson has warned of a “catastrophic loss of confidence in politics” if this latest Brexit deadline is not met, adding: “We have already kicked the can down the road twice and I think the British people are getting thoroughly fed up.”

Johnson also told BBC Radio 4 in June: “We have to get out by October 31. It would be absolutely bizarre to signal at this stage that the UK government was willing once again to run up the white flag and delay again.”

However, The Times’ Rachel Sylvester warns: “This is a man who wears his beliefs so lightly that he wrote two articles ahead of the EU referendum, one supporting Leave and the other Remain. There is every reason to assume he will pivot away from the hard Brexit position if it suits him politically.”

Controversially, Johnson has also refused to rule out shutting down Parliament to try to force a no-deal Brexit past MPs, according to PoliticsHome.

The new PM has said only that he is “not attracted to” the idea of using the procedure, known as proroguing.

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