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Johnson warns EU against any 'Napoleonic' tariffs in no-deal Brexit

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Johnson warns EU against any 'Napoleonic' tariffs in no-deal Brexit

by bGuy Faulconbridge, Elizabeth Piper

 

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Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party, stands outside one of the buildings at Wisley Garden Centre in Surrey, Britain, June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

 

LONDON (Reuters) - Boris Johnson, the favourite to become British prime minister, said he was prepared to lead Britain out of the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31 and said any EU attempt to impose trade tariffs would be akin to a Napoleonic-era blockade.

 

The United Kingdom’s three-year Brexit crisis could be about to deepen as Johnson’s pledge to leave the EU with or without a deal on Halloween could provoke a standoff with 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 businesses and the dream of hard Brexiteers who want a decisive split.

 

Johnson, a former foreign minister and London mayor, said he was convinced the EU would agree a new deal based on bits of outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May’s “dead” Withdrawal Agreement.

 

“My pledge is to come out of the EU at Halloween on 31 October,” Johnson, 55, told BBC TV, adding that there were “technical fixes” to prevent the return of a hard border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.

 

Johnson reaffirmed his view, contested by many, that Britain could retain tariff-free trade with the EU after a no-deal exit.

 

“I think it would be very bizarre if the EU should decide on their own... if they decided to impose tariffs on goods coming from the UK it would be... a return to Napoleon’s continental system,” Johnson told LBC radio on Tuesday.

 

Napoleon Bonaparte’s ‘Continental System’ was a blockade whose aim was to cripple Britain’s economy during the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century.

 

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said a provision that permits trade to continue unchanged between two parties if they so decide could only be applied when a trade deal was in place or about to be in place.

 

Johnson repeated a warning that there would be “creative ambiguity” about when and how a previously agreed 39 billion pound ($50 billion) exit bill gets paid to the EU. He ruled out any extension of the Brexit talks beyond Oct. 31.

 

He repeatedly refused to answer questions about an argument with his girlfriend which has raised doubts about his fitness to lead the country.

 

 

NO-DEAL BORIS?

 

The EU has refused to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement reached with May last November, and Ireland has indicated it is not willing to change the Irish border “backstop” that upset the Northern Irish party which props up May’s minority government.

 

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 has enfolded us in a great cloud for so long and to prepare confidently and seriously for a WTO or no-deal outcome,” he said in the BBC TV interview on Monday evening.

 

Britain is a member of the World Trade Organization so tariffs and other terms governing its trade with the EU would be set under WTO rules.

 

Britain’s car industry warned the next prime minister on Tuesday against a “seismic” no-deal Brexit, which it said could add billions of pounds in tariffs and cause border disruption, crippling the sector.

 

Business leaders have already triggered contingency plans to cope with additional checks on the post-Brexit UK-EU border, which they fear will clog ports, silt up the arteries of trade and dislocate supply chains in Europe and beyond.

 

Brexit supporters say 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 has led to Europe falling behind China and the United States.

 

On resolving the impasse over the Irish border, Johnson said he thought changing or abandoning the backstop - a guarantee to ensure no return of hard border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland - could be a way forward.

 

Last week, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the contenders to become Britain’s prime minister had offered solutions “simply not based on reality”. Johnson is facing off against foreign minister Jeremy Hunt to lead their ruling Conservative Party. The winner, to be chosen by the party’s 160,000 paid-up members, will be announced on July 23 and will then replace May as prime minister.

 

Gordon Brown, prime minister from 2007 to 2010, said the unity of the United Kingdom would be at greater risk than at any other time in its 300-year history if Johnson wins the top job.

 

“In jeopardy are both the unity and integrity of the United Kingdom and the shared values – tolerance, respect for diversity, being outward-looking,” said Brown, from the opposition Labour Party.

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-06-26

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Boris Johnson says chances of no-deal Brexit are 'a million-to-one'

 

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Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party, stands outside one of the buildings at Wisley Garden Centre in Surrey, Britain, June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

 

LONDON (Reuters) - Boris Johnson, the favourite to become British prime minister, said the chances of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal are “a million-to-one” even as he repeated his promise to leave the bloc without a deal by the end of October.

 

The race to replace Prime Minister Theresa May has heated up this week, with the foreign minister Jeremy Hunt stepping up his criticism of Johnson, who has warned that he would execute a so-called no-deal Brexit if he fails to agree a deal with the EU.

 

More than three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, Brexit is dominating the race to become leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister.

 

The winner could face a battle with parliament, which rejected May’s deal three times and is opposed to a no-deal exit.

At an election hustings on Wednesday, Johnson said the chances of leaving the EU without an agreement are remote because there is was a new mood among leaders on the continent and parliament to pass a revised Brexit deal.

 

“It is vital that we are prepare for a no-deal outcome if we are going to get the deal that we need. I don’t think that is where we are going to end up, I think it is a million-to-one against,” he said.

 

DO OR DIE BREXIT

 

His comments came just a day after he promised to leave the EU at the end of October “come what may, do or die”, raising fears among more moderate lawmakers in parliament that he will attempt to push through a no-deal Brexit.

 

Earlier, Hunt took aim at rival Johnson’s “do or die” pledge to take Britain out of the EU no matter what, saying this stance could destroy Brexit and the government.

 

Hunt, who also wants Brexit to happen at the end of October but would extend the deadline if a deal was in sight, said it could open the way to opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn winning a new election.

 

“If we do it in this kind of ‘do or die way’, the risk is that we’ll just trip into a general election because parliament will stop it, as they did in March, and then we’ll have Corbyn in Downing Street, and there will be no Brexit at all,” Hunt told BBC radio.

 

The two contenders are now hoping to win over the governing Conservatives’ around 160,000 members, whose votes will ultimately decide who becomes prime minister.

 

Both contenders say they do not want a no-deal Brexit, but concede that, if needed, they would lead Britain out of the bloc without a deal with differing levels of enthusiasm - a scenario businesses say could cripple the world’s fifth largest economy.

 

Labour, and other opposition parties have said they will not allow a new government to preside over a no deal, with some lawmakers suggesting the new prime minister could face a no confidence motion almost immediately.

 

“We’re confident that no deal can be prevented in parliament,” said a spokesman for Corbyn. “We will use whatever means necessary to prevent a no deal outcome.”

 

Johnson played down the likelihood that he would prorogue, or suspend, parliament until the Brexit deadline to prevent lawmakers blocking a no-deal Brexit, but did not entirely rule it out.

 

“I’m not attracted to archaic devices like proroguing,” he said.

 

Hunt, during the hustings, also took the opportunity to dismiss one of Johnson’s ideas that Britain could negotiate a standstill agreement to prevent trade tariffs with the EU if it left with no deal.

 

Hunt said he was not accusing Johnson of lying but said that his proposals under an international mechanism of Article 24 of the GATT Treaty could not realistically be introduced.

 

“We’ve got to knock this Gatt 24 thing on the head. You can only get an agreement not to introduce tariffs if both sides agree to that,” he said.

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-06-27

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