Johnson calls on EU to compromise as he rallies party faithful to 'get Brexit done'
Boris Johnson has used his speech to the Conservative Party conference to insist the UK will quit the European Union at the end of October, with or without a deal.
He also announced that new proposals submitted to the EU over the future of Northern Ireland were a “compromise”, and pledged there would be no checks “on or near the border”.
After walking onto The Who’s Baba O’Riley, the prime minister told party members in Manchester: “What people want [...] what the whole world wants, is to be calmly and sensibly done with the subject [of Brexit] and to move on.
“And that is why we are coming out of the EU on 31 October come what may.”
He dismissed the Benn Act, under which the government is required to request an extension if there is no deal, calling it again the Surrender Act and stating “we will work for a deal with our EU friends, but whatever happens, we will come out at the end of October”.
Johnson told delegates “constructive and reasonable proposals” were being put before the EU.
“We will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“We will respect the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. By a process of renewable democratic consent [...] we will go further and protect the existing regulatory arrangements for farmers and other businesses on both sides of the border, and at the same time we will allow the UK – whole and entire – to withdraw from the EU.
“Yes this is a compromise by the UK and I very much hope that our friends understand that and compromise in their turn.
“Because if we fail to get an agreement on what is essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks, when technology is improving the whole time, then let us be in no doubt of the alternative – the alternative is no deal.
“It is an outcome we do not want, it is not an outcome we will seek, but let me tell you this, it is an outcome for which we are ready.”
Earlier, the European Commission said it would examine the proposals "objectively” and “listen carefully to the UK”. President Jean-Claude Juncker is due to talk to Johnson over the phone later on Wednesday, while negotiating teams will meet in Brussels.
However, some sources in the EU and Ireland have already been briefing that the proposals will be unworkable and unacceptable.
Johnson also took aim at Parliament during the speech, joking that if it was a school, “Ofsted would have put it in special measures. If Parliament were a reality TV show, the whole lot of us would have been voted out.”
He said the House of Commons “refuses to deliver Brexit, refuses to do anything constructive and refuses to have an election.”
The speech – which repeated the phrase “let’s get Brexit done” throughout – was also a rally call for a forthcoming general election. He espoused the government’s record and attacked policies debuted by Labour at its conference last week.
Johnson said Jeremy Corbyn “wants to turn the whole of 2020, which should be a great year for this country, into the chaos and cacophony of two more referendums”.
The speech was warmly received by delegates, who laughed and cheered throughout and gave him the traditional standing ovation at the end.