Friday 15 December 2017

Cameron launches savage attack on Boris over EU poll

Prime Minster David Cameron. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Prime Minster David Cameron. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Michael Wilkonson

British Prime Minister David Cameron launched a savage attack on London's mayor Boris Johnson during his Commons speech, in which he set out his EU deal.

Mr Cameron hinted that Mr Johnson was backing Brexit for his own personal leadership ambitions.

Picking up on suggestions that Mr Johnson may want to use a Brexit to secure a better EU deal, he told MPs: "I won't dwell on the irony that some people want to leave in order to remain."

He added: "Such an approach also ignores more profound points about democracy and diplomacy."

Mr Cameron threw a grenade into his already strained relationship with Boris Johnson by publicly mocking him, saying: "I do not know any (couples) who have begun divorce proceedings in order to renew their wedding vows."

He continued: "I am not standing for re-election. I have no other agenda other than what's best for our country."

Earlier, Mr Cameron had warned MPs that trade deals within the EU would take "priority" over deals with Britain if the country voted to leave.

He said it would take "years and years" to build up trade deals outside the EU.

Mr Cameron said he had sought reforms to make the EU more competitive. He added there were commitments to carry out trade and investment agreements with Australia, China, India, Japan and the US.

Downing Street has poured cold water on the prospect of a second referendum if the UK votes to withdraw from the EU on June 23, insisting: "A vote to leave is a vote to leave."

The second referendum option had reportedly been floated by Mr Johnson - who dramatically came out in favour of Brexit on Sunday - as a means of securing further concessions from the EU.

But the prime minister's spokeswoman left no doubt that a vote to leave would trigger the UK's departure by means of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which provides for a two-year process for negotiating the terms of the departing state's withdrawal and its future relations with the EU.

However, she stopped short of saying that Mr Cameron would immediately trigger Article 50 by informing the European Council of a vote to leave at its summit of EU member-states' leaders scheduled for Brussels on June 23-24.

"If the British people vote to leave, the government will clearly respect the outcome of that," said the spokeswoman.

"The government will then launch the process to leave."

Asked about Mr Cameron's comments about not having a wider agenda, a Downing Street source said: "He was just setting out the fact that he announced before the last general election that he was not going to stand for election again, he set out very clearly his focus here is on what is best for the country in his view.

"He was just spelling it out very clearly."

"The prime minister's view on that, and our manifesto made very clear, is that we will respect the outcome of the referendum come what may. If the British people vote to leave, we will take the appropriate steps and move towards Article 50 straight away."

Anything else would be "not respecting the will of the British people", the source said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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