Mon, Jun 10, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Johnson vows to withhold Brexit tab

‘GREATER CLARITY’:Boris Johnson, who has the backing of three Cabinet members for the Conservative Party leadership, said only he could defeat opposition leaders

AFP, LONDON

Boris Johnson, considered the frontrunner to succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May, on Saturday said that he would refuse to pay the country’s Brexit bill until the EU agrees better withdrawal terms.

The former British secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs — the leading contender to replace May after her resignation as Conservative leader on Friday — also signaled he would scrap a controversial provision for the Irish border contained in the current divorce deal.

“Our friends and partners need to understand that the money is going to be retained until such time as we have greater clarity about the way forward,” Johnson told the Sunday Times.

“In getting a good deal, money is a great solvent and a great lubricant,” Johnson said, in his first newspaper interview since launching his bid to become the UK’s next prime minister.

May stepped down as Conservative Party leader and formally triggered the race for a successor — being contested by Johnson and 10 other lawmakers — but would remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen.

The leader of the party, which won the most seats at the last general election in 2017, automatically becomes prime minister.

The battle is expected to conclude by the end of next month, with former London mayor Johnson the bookmakers’ favorite.

In a boost to his campaign, several Cabinet members this weekend joined a growing number of centrist Conservative lawmakers in declaring they were ready to throw their support behind him.

They included British Secretary of Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire, British Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling and British Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns.

Johnson said that only he could defeat Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and euroskeptic Nigel Farage, whose new Brexit Party has been poaching Conservative voters.

“This can only be achieved by delivering Brexit as promised on Oct. 31,” Johnson added.

The UK’s departure from the EU has been delayed twice under May amid parliamentary gridlock over her withdrawal agreement with Brussels, with the end of October the latest deadline.

The so-called Irish backstop provision has proved a key stumbling block in the process.

The arrangement would prevent the return of border checks between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if the sides fail to agree a free-trade pact at the end of a transition period after the UK leaves the bloc.

Contenders for the Conservative Party leadership have been setting out their visions for the UK’s relationship with the EU.

However, several lawmakers have also faced questions over their past behavior.

British Environment Secretary Michael Gove, one of Johnson’s main rivals for the leadership, faced turmoil in his campaign this weekend after he admitted to using cocaine two decades ago.

He said in a newspaper interview that it happened “on several occasions at social events” about 20 years ago and that he deeply regretted it.

However, he faced accusations of hypocrisy for having continually supported tough drug laws.

A former senior drug adviser to the British government said in the Observer newspaper that the admission could see Gove barred from entering the US under its strict anti-drugs immigration laws.

Gove tried to turn the conversation back to policy by using an interview in the Sunday Telegraph to announce that he would scrap a key sales tax if he became prime minister.

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