Threat of no-deal Brexit intensifies as Boris Johnson refuses to nominate new UK Commissioner

Written by Martin Banks on 26 July 2019 in News
News

New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled that he will not nominate a new UK commissioner when the European Commission is reformed after the summer recess.

Boris Johnson  | Photo credit: Press Association


The move is seen as a clear signal of intent that Britain’s new leader is ready for the UK to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

EU leaders have said they expect Britain to continue to fulfil all of its legal rights and obligations as an EU member during any Brexit delay. The current UK commissioner is Sir Julian King, who is in charge of the security portfolio.

In his first speech as Prime Minister to the House of Commons on Thursday, Johnson, who has appointed a staunchly pro-Brexiteer cabinet, also claimed he is willing to pursue a no-deal divorce unless he can replace the controversial Irish backstop and renegotiate Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

But he said some “immediate steps” were needed, adding, “the first is to restore trust in our democracy and fulfil the repeated promises of [UK] Parliament to the people by coming out of the European Union - and doing so on October 31.”


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He added, “I and all ministers in this government are committed to leaving on this date, whatever the circumstances. To do otherwise would cause a catastrophic loss of confidence in our political system. It will leave the British people wondering whether their politicians could ever be trusted again to follow a clear democratic instruction.”

“I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal. I would much prefer it. I believe that is still possible even at this late stage and I will work flat out to make it happen. But certain things need to be clear.”

He told a packed Commons, “The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this House. Its terms are unacceptable to this Parliament and to this country.”

“I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal. I would much prefer it. I believe that is still possible even at this late stage and I will work flat out to make it happen. But certain things need to be clear” Boris Johnson

“No country that values its independence and indeed its self-respect could agree to a Treaty which signs away our economic independence and self-government as this backstop does. A time limit is not enough."

"If an agreement is to be reached it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.”

Among those in the Commons to hear the speech was Roger Casale, a former Labour MP who now campaigns for post-Brexit citizens’ rights.

On Thursday, he told this site, “I have just been in the House of Commons to witness for myself the first statement by Boris Johnson as Prime Minister to MPs.”

“It is quite clear that this is a Vote Leave Government led by a ‘no deal’ Prime Minister and that it is going to throw the rights of Britons abroad under the bus while giving no further guarantees to EU citizens in the UK beyond the settled scheme.”

“That is why it is more important than ever for New Europeans to step up our campaign for an EU green card to ring fence the rights and status of #the5million.”

“A time limit is not enough. If an agreement is to be reached it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop” Boris Johnson

Casale, of New Europeans, and others are also critical of Johnson’s failure to mention the 1.5 million Britons in Europe in his speech outside Downing Street on Wednesday.

They pointed out that he went out of his way to pledge that he would look after EU citizens in the UK but made no mention of UK citizens in Europe.

On this, Casale said, "If Boris Johnson threw Britain's most senior ambassador under a bus and prejudiced the case of Nazani Zaghari-Radcliffe in Iran, he is not going to lose any sleep over Britons living in the EU. He is an extreme example of a UK government that has always cared even less about Britons abroad than it does about EU citizens in the UK.”

“New Europeans has never believed anything of value for Britons abroad would come from the Article 50 negotiations. That is why we have always campaigned for the EU to grant unilateral guarantees for Britons in Europe.”

“It is quite clear that this is a Vote Leave Government led by a ‘no deal’ Prime Minister” Roger Casale, New Europeans

“The UK government announced unilateral guarantees for EU citizens last November following our three-year campaign and is already rolling out the settled status scheme.”

“So, there was nothing new in Boris Johnson's statement except a reminder that Britons abroad are on their own as far as the UK government is concerned. Meanwhile New Europeans continues to campaign for an EU Green card to ring-fence the rights and status of Britons abroad post-Brexit."

Campaigners for EU citizens in the UK, meanwhile, welcomed Johnson’s remarks and said they felt “more optimistic” that the threat of a Windrush scandal would be removed from EU citizens’ futures.

Nicolas Hatton, co-founder of the campaign group the 3million, said they hoped Johnson would introduce a “declaratory system” instead of the current system whereby EU citizens only get “settled” status, something the Home Affairs select committee has also criticised.

“It is now – more than ever – essential that in Scotland we have an alternative option” Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

About 900,000 of the estimated 3.6 million EU citizens in the UK have already applied for this, but campaigners fear vulnerable groups including the elderly, children in foster care, homeless people and those with minor criminal records will fall through the cracks.

Elsewhere, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Johnson to tell him that she is “looking forward” to discussing with him her proposals for a second independence referendum.

Using her first letter to the new Prime Minister to remind him of Scottish government analysis which found that a no-deal Brexit could cost 100,000 jobs across Scotland, she writes: “Given your public comments about leaving the EU on October 31 with or without a deal, 'come what may' and 'do or die', it is now – more than ever – essential that in Scotland we have an alternative option.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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