Boris Johnson the Brexiteer vows to seal divorce deal

‘We are going to deliver Brexit on October 31, take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring, and defeat Jeremy Corbyn’

Updated - July 24, 2019 12:15 am IST

Published - July 23, 2019 05:02 pm IST - LONDON

Boris Johnson speaks after being announced as the new leader of the Conservative Party in London on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.

Boris Johnson speaks after being announced as the new leader of the Conservative Party in London on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.

Boris Johnson, the Brexiteer who has promised to lead Britain out of the EU with or without a deal by the end of October, will replace Theresa May as Prime Minister after winning the leadership of the Conservative Party on Tuesday.

His convincing victory catapults the United Kingdom towards a showdown with the EU and towards a constitutional crisis at home, as British lawmakers have vowed to bring down any government that tries to leave the bloc without a divorce deal.

“We are going to get Brexit done on October 31, and we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring in a new spirit of ‘can do’,” Mr. Johnson, 55, said after the result was announced. “Like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”

Mr. Johnson said the mantra of his leadership campaign had been to “deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat (Opposition Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn — and that is what we are going to do”.

The victory for one of Britain’s most flamboyant politicians places an avowed Brexit supporter in charge of the government for the first time since the U.K. voted to leave the EU in the shock 2016 referendum.

The 2016 Brexit referendum showed a U.K. divided about much more than the EU, and has fuelled soul-searching about everything from regional secession and immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire, and modern Britishness.

Brexit, which has already toppled two Conservative Prime Ministers, will dominate. Mr. Johnson has pledged to negotiate a new Brexit divorce deal with the EU to secure a smooth transition out of the EU before October 31. But if the bloc refuses, as it insists it will, he has promised to leave anyway — “do or die” — on the current agreed date.

It is a step that many investors and economists say would send shock waves through world markets and tip the world’s fifth largest economy into recession or even chaos.

The EU said a no-deal Brexit would be a tragedy for both parties but again said the withdrawal deal was not up for negotiation. “We look forward to working constructively with PM Johnson when he takes office, to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit,” tweeted the bloc's negotiator, Michel Barnier.

A Brexit without a divorce deal would also weaken London’s position as the pre-eminent international financial centre while jolting the northern European economy.

Mr. Johnson’s Conservatives have no majority in Parliament and need the support of 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland’s Brexit-backing Democratic Unionist Party to govern.

Even then, the majority is wafer-thin — and some lawmakers have threatened to bring down the government, a step that would probably deepen Britain’s political crisis and lead to an election.

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