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Johnson serious about going through with 'no-deal' Brexit
BORIS Johnson, the favourite to become British prime minister, said he will seek a new Brexit deal with the European Union (EU) but added that if the bloc refuses his demands, he will lead the world's fifth-largest economy out without agreement on Oct 31.
The UK's three-year Brexit crisis could be about to deepen as Mr Johnson's pledge to leave the EU with or without a deal on Halloween could provoke a stand-off with the British parliament which has indicated its opposition to a no-deal exit.
No-deal means there would be no transition period so the exit would be abrupt, the nightmare scenario for many business leaders and the dream of hard Brexiteers who want a decisive split.
Seeking to turn the public discourse away from a discussion about an argument with his girlfriend, Mr Johnson told the BBC he would pick the bits of Prime Minister Theresa May's "dead" Withdrawal Agreement that he likes and seek a new deal with the EU.
"My pledge is to exit the EU on Halloween on Oct 31," said Mr Johnson, 55, adding that there were "abundant technical fixes" to prevent the return of a hard border between Ireland and the UK's Northern Ireland. He repeated a warning that there would be "creative ambiguity" about when and how a previously agreed £39 billion (S$67 billion) exit bill gets paid.
The EU has refused to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement reached with Mrs May last November, and Ireland has indicated it is not willing to change the Irish border "backstop" that upsets the Northern Irish party which props up Mrs May's minority government.
Mr Johnson said he did not want a no-deal Brexit - which investors warn would roil financial markets and send shockwaves through the European economy - but that it was necessary to put it on the table so that Britain could get the result it wanted.
"The way to get our friends and partners to understand how serious we are is finally, I'm afraid, to abandon the defeatism and negativity that have enfolded us in a great cloud for so long and to prepare confidently and seriously for a WTO or no-deal outcome," he told BBC TV. Britain is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) so tariffs and other terms governing its trade with the EU would be set under WTO rules.
Business leaders have already triggered contingency plans to cope with additional checks on the post-Brexit UK-EU border they fear will clog ports, silt up the arteries of trade and dislocate supply chains in Europe and beyond.
Brexit supporters said there would be short-term disruption but in the long-term, the UK would thrive if cut free from what they cast as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity that is falling behind China and the US.
On resolving an impasse around the Irish border, Mr Johnson said he thought changing or abandoning the backstop - a guarantee to ensure no return of hard border checks between EU-member Ireland and British-run Northern Ireland - could be a way forward. "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," Mr Johnson said.
Trade experts have expressed scepticism that technology can solve the border problem, at least in the near term. Last week, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the contenders to become Britain's prime minister had offered solutions "simply not based on reality".
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson, a former London mayor, refused to comment on reports of a heated late-night row with his girlfriend that led to the police being called to their home last week. "I do not talk about stuff involving my family, my loved ones," he said. "And there's a very good reason for that. That is that, if you do, you drag them into things that, really, is in a way not fair to them." REUTERS