Wednesday 17 July 2019

'There are all sorts of pictures of me on the internet' - Boris Johnson tightlipped over timing of picture with partner

British PM favourite defends Brexit plan and 'row' silence

The real deal?: The ‘leaked’ photo has been described as poorly staged and has provoked several odd conspiracy theories
The real deal?: The ‘leaked’ photo has been described as poorly staged and has provoked several odd conspiracy theories

David Hughes and Jennifer McKiernan

Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to be the next British Prime Minister, faced continued questions about his personal life as he attempted to shift the focus back onto plans for his premiership.

Mr Johnson has struggled to get his campaign back on track since police were called to a late-night quarrel at the home he shares with partner Carrie Symonds in London.

He said it was "simply unfair" to "drag" his loved ones into the political arena as he goes up against Jeremy Hunt in the battle to become Conservative Party leader.

He used a series of broadcast interviews to set out his plans for Brexit, insisting that the shock of the European election results would force both the Tories and Labour to acknowledge that the current impasse could not continue.

"It's time this country frankly stopped being so down about its ability to get this thing done," he said.

But, on LBC Radio, he was repeatedly challenged about his personal life and whether his campaign was behind the release of a picture of him with Ms Symonds in an attempt to show their relationship was going strong.

Favourite: The chances of no deal would rise under Boris Johnston
Favourite: The chances of no deal would rise under Boris Johnston

Asked where the photograph had come from, Mr Johnson said: "The longer we spend on things extraneous to what I want to do ... the bigger the waste of time."

In testy exchanges, he said there are "all sorts of pictures of me out on the internet which pop up from time to time".

When host Nick Ferrari suggested his hairstyle indicated it was an old picture, he said: "This conversation is now descending into farce."

On Brexit, Mr Johnson said "politics has totally changed" since March 29 and "we are staring down the barrel of defeat" which would focus minds in Parliament.

He told LBC: "People are looking at this thing and thinking 'Parliament is just not going to do this'. But, actually, I think they are."

He said that "it is vital as a country that we get ready to come out without an agreement if we must" but argued that it would be "bizarre" for the European Union to impose tariffs on trade in that event if the two sides were looking at a future deal.

In a BBC interview, Mr Johnson called for "creative ambiguity" over the £39 billion cost of the UK's Brexit divorce deal, suggesting this could break the deadlock.

The former Vote Leave leader, who hopes to become prime minister, also called for a "commonsensical" no-deal Brexit to be left on the table to allow the "incubus" to be "pitchforked off the back of British politics".

Mr Johnson's campaign was stepping up a gear with a series of media appearances and events following claims he was a "coward" from leadership rival Jeremy Hunt for shying away from debates.

Mr Johnson had kept out of the public eye since the news broke on Friday about the row at the south London home he shares with Ms Symonds.

Police called by worried neighbours after his partner was heard screaming and shouting "get off me".

On the BBC, Mr Johnson said: "I do not talk about stuff involving my family, my loved ones.

"And there's a very good reason for that. That is that, if you do, you drag them into things that ... in a way that is not fair on them."

On Monday night, on BBC television, he admitted he needs the EU's help to avoid a hard Border or crippling tariffs on trade under a no-deal Brexit

He also said that he did "not believe for a moment" the UK would leave without a deal.

The favourite to be next UK prime minister said politics had "changed so much since March 29" which was the original deadline for the deal.

The former foreign secretary criticised the UK negotiating team for being the "authors of our own incarceration" in creating the backstop to prevent a hard Border on the island of Ireland.

And he insisted the EU should play a part in solving the Border conundrum, saying: "It's not just up to us."

But when picked up on what would enable the UK to avoid any Irish backstop, Mr Johnson could not name an existing technology.

"Let me tell you, there are abundant, abundant technical fixes that can be introduced to make sure that you don't have to have checks at the Border," he said.

"That's the crucial thing. And everybody accepts that there are ways you can check for the rules origin, there are ways you can check for compliance with EU goods and standards, of our goods standards."

Mr Johnson also insisted he would have an implementation period - despite this being part of Theresa May's deal, which he had earlier dismissed as "dead".

"The important thing is that there should be an agreement that the solution of the Border questions, the Irish Border, the Northern Irish Border questions, and all the facilitation that we want to produce to get that done.

"All those issues need to be tackled on the other side of October 31 during what's called the Implementation Period."


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