Monday 19 August 2019

EU warning as Johnson vows to 'get Brexit done'

Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar. Picture: AFP/Reuters
Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar. Picture: AFP/Reuters
Boris Johnson. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

EU leaders will warn Boris Johnson the Withdrawal Agreement is the only path to an orderly Brexit as he takes up the role of UK prime minister today.

Mr Johnson received widespread congratulations after his resounding victory in the Conservative Party leadership contest.

Sources in the Irish Government said they want to be “pragmatic” about the situation after the incoming prime minister used his first speech to again promise he will lead the UK out of the EU on October 31.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar intends to keep his early conversation with Mr Johnson focused on issues such as Brexit, Northern Ireland and bi-lateral relations.

However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last night claimed Mr Johnson has "failed to show the slightest level of understanding" about the impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland.

Mr Martin said: "It is clear that he is single-minded in his ambition, but I don't think anyone can credibly say that he has thought through how to promote prosperity and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

"And to be honest no one really seems to know what his beliefs are in relation to Brexit, other than wanting to raise the flag of victory at Halloween," he added.

Among the first to publicly applaud Mr Johnson was US President Donald Trump, who has been scathing in his analysis of Theresa May's performance on Brexit.

Mr Trump tweeted: "He will be great!"

Mrs May will take her final round of questions in the House of Commons this morning before travelling to meet the queen. She will then formally hand over the reigns to Mr Johnson who has already started putting together his leadership team.

In his acceptance speech after the result of the leadership contest was announced, Mr Johnson pledged to "deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn".

He acknowledged that some people "will question the wisdom" of his appointment.

"I would just point out to you of course nobody, no one party, no one person has a monopoly on wisdom.

"But if you look at the history of the last 200 years of this party you will see that it is we Conservatives who have had the best insights, I think, into human nature," he said.

To the doubters, Mr Johnson said: "Dude, we are going to energise the country, we are going to get Brexit done."

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said he looks forward to "working constructively" with Mr Johnson "to facilitate the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit".

Mr Varadkar decided to wait to make any substantial comment until Mr Johnson is formally appointed as prime minister - but sources described Mr Barnier's statement as "right on message".

French President Emmanuel Macron and future head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen both congratulated Mr Johnson on becoming Britain's next prime minister, although a key Macron ally warned Mr Johnson the EU would not budge on Brexit.

"First of all, congratulations to Boris Johnson for being nominated as prime minister. I'm looking forward to having a good working relationship with him," Ms Von der Leyen told a joint news conference with Mr Macron in Paris yesterday. "We have challenging times ahead of us," she added. "We have a duty to deliver something which is good for people in Europe and the United Kingdom."

Her views were echoed by the French leader who said he would speak to Mr Johnson as soon as he is officially installed as prime minister.

"I'm looking forward to working with him as soon as possible, not only on Europeans' issues such as Brexit negotiations, but also international issues that we have to closely coordinate on everyday with Britain and Germany, such as Iran and other international security issues."

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, last night, Mr Martin said Mr Johnson has "boxed himself into a corner".

"But I think the defining feature of his career to date has been either through self-interest or in terms of analysing the circumstances facing him, he has managed to adapt and change course.

Mr Martin said Mr Johnson "needs to bring himself up to date very quickly" on the Good Friday Agreement.

Irish Independent

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