Brussels is engaged in an extraordinary war of words with Boris Johnson over his Brexit plans today – accusing him of talking ‘bullsh**’ and going over old ground.
The Tory front runner has dramatically ramped up the rhetoric vowing to face down the EU and leave without a deal if it will not bend.
He insisted there should be a ‘standstill’ agreement on trade terms in the divorce package, with the Irish border issue being sorted out after the UK legally leaves.
EU sources immediately dismissed the ideas, saying the two sides had ‘been here before’.
But Mr Johnson’s supporter Dominic Raab warned this morning: ‘If we end up on WTO terms, it will be the EU’s choice.’
Boris Johnson (pictured in Oxshott yesterday) has dramatically ramped up the rhetoric vowing to face down the EU and leave without a deal if it will not bend
Yesterday the Tory leadership frontrunner fleshed out a hardline strategy for negotiating with the EU, which he said could succeed where Mrs May had failed.
He pledged to tear up Mrs May’s Brexit deal and threaten to withhold all or part of the £39 billion divorce bill in the hope of persuading the EU to back down, saying the sum negotiated by Mrs May was ‘at the high end of the EU’s expectations’.
Mr Johnson said that if this failed he would seek a ‘standstill’ agreement with the EU to prevent the imposition of tariffs. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and international trade secretary Liam Fox have both warned that the proposal is impossible.
Mr Johnson said they were ‘wrong’ to dismiss it as a solution. He acknowledged that it would require ‘mutuality’ from the EU to achieve it, but said it would be ‘bizarre’ for Brussels to seek to impose tariffs.
Asked if he could ‘categorically’ rule out another Brexit delay he replied ‘yes’ – and suggested parliament could not stop him taking Britain out of the EU without a deal.
He said: ‘It would be up to the Prime Minister of the day. I have myself to decide under the current terms of the extension that we have, to apply for such an extension. And it is up to the EU to decide whether to grant it. At the moment, the law says that the UK is leaving the EU – international treaty law -says the UK is leaving the EU on the 31st of October.’
He also dismissed warnings by Kenneth Clarke and other pro-Remain Tories that they would rather vote down the government than allow no-deal.
‘People are saying parliament is not going to allow this,’ he said. ‘But actually I think they are.
‘Politics has changed completely since March 29. We are staring down the barrel of defeat.’
Mr Johnson said he was ready to take the UK out on time ‘do or die, come what may’ – and even suggested he could quit if he failed to deliver on his central pledge.
Asked directly whether he would resign if failed to get Britain out on time, he replied: ‘I think that follows from everything that I’ve said – I think politics is at a crossroads in this country. And it is fundamental to trust in politics that we come out of the EU.’
Interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Mr Raab insisted a PM could simply ignore any motion passed by the Commons.
Jeremy Hunt (pictured leaving his London home today) has warned Mr Johnson against making promises he cannot keep
But former leadership contender Rory Stewart, who declared he is supporting Mr Hunt, said MPs could block No Deal.
‘Parliament is against no deal. It is only the legal default because parliament made it the legal default,’ he said.
‘Parliament can unmake it the legal default. There are many, many opportunities in legislation that have to brought forward, that could be amended in order to stop a no-deal Brexit.’
EU sources told the Sun Mr Johnson’s strategy was ‘not going to fly’.
‘This is an old UK idea, to secure the parts you like and forget the rest. But it’s a package,’ one said.
‘What is missing is finances and the backstop, so he would get all he wants. And you’d need our agreement for that. It’s nonsense.’
Another source added: ‘Boris can bull**** all he likes. We’ve been here before.
‘If we didn’t make concessions for a Remainer like May why would we make them for a populist architect of Brexit?’
Amber Rudd, who is backing Mr Hunt, said Mr Johnson had failed to explain how he would unite all wings of the party behind his plans.
‘This is an incredibly difficult situation and Boris needs to explain how he will deal with both sides of the Conservative Party that have concerns and try and break the impasse with the European Union,’ she said. ‘Enthusiasm and optimism is not sufficient.’ Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer issued a warning to Mr Johnson, saying: ‘If you become Prime Minister, Parliament will do everything it can to block no-deal on October31. No ifs, no buts.’
Mr Johnson upped the ante yesterday by suggesting he would resign as PM if Britain is still in the EU on November 1.
In an open letter to his leadership rival last night, he challenged Mr Hunt to match his commitment, warning that failure to deliver on time would have ‘devastating’ consequences for both the Tories and the country.
In a bid to open up a dividing line in the campaign, Mr Johnson wrote: ‘The central question in this leadership contest is whether the next Prime Minister agrees to honour the referendum result and commits to leaving the EU on 31 October. If we fail to deliver once again, the consequences for our Party and our country will be devastating.
‘We must not kick the can down the road again. The British people have had enough of being left in limbo. So both of us have a responsibility to provide clarity on exactly when we believe the UK should leave the EU.’
Mr Hunt said he was happy to discuss his plans and asked why Mr Johnson had pulled out of a leadership debate organised by Sky TV last night.
The change of tone from Mr Johnson followed the appointment yesterday of prominent Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith to shake up his lacklustre campaign.
But a source on Mr Hunt’s campaign warned that Mr Johnson was making a series of ‘hostages to fortune’ he would be unable to keep.
‘His Brexit plans are undeliverable and he knows it,’ the source said. ‘He’s making exactly the same mistakes as Theresa May – boxing himself in too early with rhetoric he can’t deliver on.’
Mr Johnson said his ‘positive energy’ would help secure a new deal with the EU. And he derided the ‘pathetic’ attempts of Theresa May’s regime, in which he served for two years, to get Britain out of the EU.