UK's Johnson sticks to his Brexit strategy despite heavy defeats

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
Istanbul
Published 09.09.2019 00:23

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is sticking to his Brexit plan and will not seek a delay to Britain's departure from the EU at a summit next month, two of his ministers said yesterday following a resignation from his government.

After Work and Pensions Minister Amber Rudd's shock resignation late on Saturday over Johnson's Brexit policy, two ministers said the prime minister was determined to "keep to the plan" to leave the European Union by Oct. 31 with or without an agreement. Her resignation caps a miserable week for Prime Minister Johnson as he tries to steer his splintered country through its biggest political crisis since World War II. Johnson has appointed lawmaker Therese Coffey as secretary of state for work and pensions. Coffey, appointed environment minister and a lawmaker for the constituency Suffolk Coastal in eastern England, backed "Remain" during the EU referendum in 2016 and voted against legalizing gay marriage in 2013.

Rudd was a moderate member of former Prime Minister Theresa May's government whose endorsement Johnson coveted during his successful UK leadership challenge. But Rudd said yesterday that she could no longer be part of the team that oversees what both businesses and the markets fear would be a very messy "no-deal" divorce. "When I asked Number 10 for a summary of what the plan was for actually getting a deal, I was sent a one-page summary," she told BBC television. "I believe [Johnson] is trying to get a deal with the EU. I am just saying what I have seen in government is that there is this huge machine preparing for no-deal."

Johnson's determination to leave "do or die" by that deadline has been shaken by the events of recent days, which have prompted critics to describe him as a tyrant and deepened uncertainty over how Britain's 2016 vote to leave the EU will play out.

Johnson is adamant that he needs the no-deal threat to wrest a better agreement from Brussels at a leadership summit on Oct. 17-18. He is instead seeking to hold an early general election on October 15 that could give him a mandate to take Britain out on time and at any cost. But Parliament has mandated Johnson to seek an extension should his approach fail by Oct. 19. Lawmakers are also expected to block his call for a snap vote for a second time. This appears to leave Johnson with few other options but to resign, something two top ministers said on Sunday he would not do.

Last week, Johnson has lost his Conservative government's majority in Parliament, expelled 21 rebels from the party and failed to force through a new election. Then his own brother quit, saying he was torn between family loyalty and the national interest. Among the Tory rebels that were kicked out of the faction are such prominent members as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken Clarke and the grandson of war premier Winston Churchill, Nicholas Soames. On Thursday, the prime minister's brother, Jo Johnson, resigned his office as secretary of state and his mandate as a member of Parliament for the Tories.

Fears of Britain and the 27 EU nations splitting without a plan for what comes next were compounded when France threw up its hands at the possibility of another Brexit extension. "In the current circumstances, it's no!" French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a political talk show in Paris. "We are not going through this every three months," he said. Paris took one of the hardest lines among EU nations against a previous request to extend the Brexit deadline beyond April. All 28 current EU leaders must approve what would be the third Brexit delay this year.

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