Johnson warns Brexit delays open door for Labour govt
Starts leadership campaign with pledge to get deal before Oct 31
Boris Johnson started his Conservative leadership campaign on Wednesday with a warning that delaying Brexit beyond October 31 would result in the defeat of the government.
The gaffe-prone hard-right Brexiteer and former Foreign Secretary had said previously he would leave the EU in October without a deal if necessary, but appeared to row back from those remarks in an attempt to win over Tories vehemently opposed to the UK crashing out of the bloc.
"Around the country there is a mood of disillusion, even despair, at our ability to get things done. The longer it goes on, the worse the risk of serious contamination and a real loss of confidence, because the people of this country deserve better from their leaders."
"I am not aiming for a no-deal outcome, I don’t think we can end up with any such thing. But it is only responsible to prepare vigorously and seriously," he said at the launch in London, adding that "delay means defeat, delay means (Labour leader Jeremy) Corbyn".
However, Johnson's belief that the EU would re-open talks on the withdrawal agreement negotiated with outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May were quickly rejected on Tuesday by outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
May resigned after failing three times to get parliamentary support for her deal.
"It’s not a treaty between Theresa May and Juncker, it’s a treaty between the EU and the UK. It has to be respected by whomsoever will be the next prime minister ... There will be no renegotiation," Juncker said.
Johnson had threatened to withhold the £39bn agreed with the EU as part of the so-called "divorce settlement" if the deal was not amended.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said in response: "Everybody knows what is on the table. What is on the table has been approved by all member states and the election of a new prime minister will not change the parameters."
There would also be domestic opposition to a no-deal departure, with a new cross-party Labour-led bid to block that scenario being put to the House of Commons later on Wednesday.
The motion, which also has the support of the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Change UK, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and three Conservative MPs, aims to hand the control of Brexit to the Commons in an attempt to avoid allowing a new prime minister pushing through a no-deal exit.
Johnson has also come under fire for pledging to increase the threshold for paying the 40p rate of income tax to £80,000 from £50,000, with critics savaging the plan as benefiting higher earners at the expense of low-paid workers.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the net cost of Johnson’s plan would be around £10bn, as the ceiling for paying National Insurance contributions would also go up.
"It helps the 10% highest earners and the group who would benefit the most would be the high-income pensioners who don’t pay National Insurance at all," said IFS director Paul Johnson.