Wednesday 23 October 2019

Johnson to plough on with plans for Halloween Brexit

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will plough on towards a Halloween Brexit
  • Decision to continue despite the UK Supreme Court finding he illegally suspended Parliament
  • Johnson makes it clear that the UK government now wants a Northern Ireland-specific solution to the impasse
Jovial mood: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US President Donald Trump at the UN, before the impeachment move was announced. Picture: PA
Jovial mood: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US President Donald Trump at the UN, before the impeachment move was announced. Picture: PA

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn in New York

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will plough on towards a Halloween Brexit despite the UK Supreme Court finding he illegally suspended Parliament.

The prime minister was flying to London overnight ahead of a House of Commons session today where opposition MPs will demand his resignation. 

But Mr Johnson remains defiant and accused people of wanting to “frustrate Brexit” and “stop this country coming out of the EU”.

During a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in New York last night, he made it clear that the UK government now wants a Northern Ireland-specific solution to the impasse.

Although Mr Johnson provided “more detail” of what this might entail, his proposals would not be enough to maintain a fully open Border. 

The Irish Independent understands the two men agreed to meet again within a fortnight.

And Mr Varadkar said he would “absolutely not” be joining calls for Mr Johnson to resign.

Amid the chaos, the DUP admitted the UK may now not be in a position to leave the EU in 36 days’ time.

The DUP's deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the "shenanigans" in the Commons had weakened Mr Johnson's hand in negotiations.

"This is just another step on the way and there will be many more twists and turns in the saga," he said.

"I think it would be very unwise for anyone to predict, never mind the end of October, what's going to happen next week. I think we're in uncharted territory."

The position of the DUP that Northern Ireland must not be treated differently from the rest of the UK is likely to come under increasing scrutiny as Mr Johnson tries to hammer out a deal.

Sources say the embattled prime minister told Mr Varadkar that alternatives to the backstop would focus on the issues on the island of Ireland rather than the wider relationship between the UK and EU.

"Boris is looking to the North to provide an answer but there isn't enough detail," a source told the Irish Independent.

A date or location has not yet been agreed for a further meeting between the two leaders, but it will be in advance of a crunch EU summit on October 17.

Mr Johnson held a telephone call with his full cabinet last night as the full impact of the Supreme Court ruling became clear. He told ministers that he disagreed with the decision but that he respected the independence of the judiciary.

He also phoned Queen Elizabeth amid calls for him to publicly apologise to the monarch for the debacle.

President of the UK's Supreme Court Brenda Hale said 11 judges were "bound to conclude" that the decision "to advise [the queen] to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification".

On foot of the ruling, Commons Speaker John Bercow announced the House would resume its business today.

There will be no session of prime minister's questions, but Mr Bercow said there would be scope for applications for emergency debates and calls for ministers to be summoned to the House.

He said: "The citizens of the UK are entitled to expect that Parliament does discharge its core functions, that it is in a position to scrutinise the executive, to hold ministers to account and to legislate if it chooses."

It is expected that Mr Johnson will make an appearance in Parliament at some stage over the course of the day.

He has spent the past two days at a United Nations summit in New York, where he met a string of European leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He also held talks with US President Donald Trump who rushed to his defence.

After Mr Johnson was questioned about resigning, Mr Trump said: "I'll tell you, I know him well, he's not going anywhere."

Mr Trump then rebuked the journalist who asked the question, saying: "That was a very nasty question from a great American reporter."

He added it would be "terrible" if the UK government's Brexit plan was blocked.

Irish Independent

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