Monday 11 November 2019

Johnson blames Corbyn for delay in Brexit as poll campaigns crank up

Excuse: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons yesterday. Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire
Excuse: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons yesterday. Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire

Shaun Connolly

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is blaming the failure to deliver on his "do or die" promise to quit the EU on October 31 on Jeremy Corbyn.

Despite the pledge he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than seek a delay beyond Halloween, Mr Johnson tried to suggest it was the UK Labour leader's fault that Brexit had been put back until January 31.

"Today should have been the day that Brexit was delivered and we finally left the EU," Mr Johnson said.

"But despite the great new deal I agreed with the EU, Jeremy Corbyn refused to allow that to happen - insisting upon more dither, more delay and more uncertainty for families and business.

"We cannot continue along this path. I didn't want an election - like the country I wanted to get Brexit done, but it is the only way forward."

As the general election campaign cranked into gear, Mr Johnson added: "The public wants and expects the government to give them hope and to improve their opportunities.

"This is exactly what my government has been doing for the past 99 days and exactly what my government will continue to do if the public choose the Conservatives in this election."

Separately, Michelle O'Neill said Sinn Féin was hoping to unseat "an architect of Brexit" - DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds - as it aims to increase its number of MPs from seven to eight.

The Sinn Féin vice-president said the December 12 election will be about maximising the return of pro-Remain candidates.

"We will stand in our seven constituencies in which we currently hold seats and we will stand in North Belfast to win that seat," she said.

Standing alongside the party's North Belfast candidate John Finucane, Ms O'Neill made clear their intention to target the constituency's MP Mr Dodds.

"We believe there is a real opportunity in North Belfast to oust someone who has been architect of Brexit, someone who has actively worked against the interests of people who live here on this island, and John Finucane can provide local representation but also will reflect Ireland's interests in all of this mess," she said.

Earlier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the risk of the UK leaving the European Union without a ratified deal still remains.

Mr Barnier said during a speech in Brussels that a no-deal Brexit "could happen at the end of January" if British politicians fail to ratify the new divorce agreement.

Once the divorce deal is ratified, the UK will remain inside the bloc's single market and bound by its rules until the end of December 2020, while the two sides devise a new trade relationship during a transition period.

Mr Barnier said a no-deal Brexit "could also happen at the end of 2020".

Today also marks the end of an era in Westminster as House of Commons Speaker John Bercow steps down.

It is the end of a 10-year term in which he has become a central player in Britain's protracted Brexit debate - feted by the Remain side but reviled by many Brexiteers.

His cries of "Order! Order!" have made him one of British politics' most recognisable figures - inspiring viral video clips replayed around the world.

The prime minister paid tennis-lover Mr Bercow a backhanded compliment, describing him not just as a "ruthless" umpire of parliamentary procedure, but a sometimes cruel commentator and a partisan player in his own right: "Peppering every part of the chamber with your own thoughts and opinions like some uncontrollable tennis-ball machine."

Mr Bercow was elected as a member of the ruling Conservative Party in 1997, but gave up that affiliation when he was chosen to be Speaker in 2009.

Irish Independent

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