BORIS JOHNSON claimed the chances of a no-deal Brexit are ‘a million to one’ — as he insisted Britain will definitely leave the EU on October 31 if he becomes PM.
The Tory leadership frontrunner told a digital hustings event last night he was confident of doing a new deal with the EU that MPs will support.
But it came after Brussels insisted negotiations over the withdrawal agreement, which Mr Johnson’s rival Jeremy Hunt also aims to reopen, were finished ‘full stop’. Mr Johnson (above) said: ‘We need to come out of the European Union on October 31 and get it done.
‘It is absolutely vital that we prepare for a no-deal Brexit if we are going to get a deal. I don’t think that is where we are going to end up — I think it is a million-to-one against — but it is vital we prepare.’
A European Commission spokeswoman said: ‘I can confirm, as has been repeated several times, we will not be renegotiating the withdrawal agreement, full stop. The commission will work with any prime minister in a spirit of good co-operation.’
She said talks could reopen over the ‘future relationship’ document, which is separate from the contentious withdrawal deal and sets out how the two sides hope to interact after Brexit.
But she said the UK would first have to back down over some of its ‘red lines’, such as leaving the EU customs union.
Both Tory leadership rivals argue that, by being able to make a fresh start after Theresa May’s departure, they will have a chance to convince Brussels to change its mind over rewriting the deal MPs have rejected.
But they have both said that, if the EU won’t budge, they will go ahead with a no-deal.
With parliament unlikely to approve that outcome, they could end up stuck in the same position as Mrs May — unless they plough ahead with a no-deal without the backing of MPs.
Mr Johnson has promised he will deliver Brexit ‘do or die’ by October 31.
Mr Hunt, who would accept missing the deadline if progress had been made on a new deal, yesterday accused his rival of announcing pledges he could not keep.
On a campaign visit to Essex, the foreign secretary said: ‘If you want to be prime minister, make promises you can actually deliver. I’m the person who’s far, far more likely to deliver Brexit by October 31 because I can negotiate a deal with the EU, and that’s what I’m going to do.’
When asked about Mr Johnson’s approach, he replied: ‘The trouble with “do or die” is you could end up with a general election, Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street and no Brexit at all — and I want to offer a more positive future than that.’
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt’s former leadership rival Dominic Raab said the next prime minister would be free to ignore MPs if they continued to oppose a no-deal.
The knocked-out contender, who now supports Mr Johnson, had said during his own campaign that he would be willing to suspend parliament if necessary to stop it preventing Britain’s departure.
But he said yesterday any Commons motion opposing a no-deal would have ‘zero legal effect’ and it would be ‘far harder’ for MPs to deploy wrecking tactics against Mr Johnson than against Mr Hunt.
‘A prime minister that is resolute about this — Boris has been, Jeremy hasn’t — can get us out,’ he told LBC radio. ‘More importantly, by being clear we leave at the end of October, we increase our negotiating position and our strength, our leverage, to get the deal that would be acceptable to our country.’
He suggested Mr Hunt’s willingness to seek an extension could open the door to a second referendum on Brexit.
Mr Hunt’s campaign was boosted as both Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and his beaten leadership rival Rory Stewart endorsed him. But Arlene Foster, whose Northern Irish DUP party the Tories rely on for support, said she was not backing either candidate. It is ‘very important’ that Britain leaves by October 31, she added.
After campaigning in Surrey on Tuesday, Mr Johnson was at parliament yesterday to meet Iraqi president Barham Salih.
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt sipped a milkshake at a Chelmsford cafe, where he joked about Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage getting one thrown at him last month. He declared the treat ‘delicious’, adding: ‘A big improvement on Nigel Farage’s milkshake moment.’
Boris vows Aussie rules for immigration
BORIS JOHNSON has pledged an Australian-style, points- based immigration system if he becomes prime minister.The former foreign secretary said: ‘We must be tougher on those who abuse our hospitality. Other countries such as Australia have great systems and we should learn from them.’ He would protect EU nationals’ rights, he added.