Boris Johnson has urged Brussels to rethink its opposition to negotiating a new agreement on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
In his first statement to MPs as Prime Minister, Mr Johnson reaffirmed his determination to deliver Brexit by the October 31 deadline, warning of a “catastrophic” loss of confidence in the UK’s democracy if they failed.
Mr Johnson, who entered the Commons chamber to cheers from Tory MPs, insisted that he wanted to take Britain out of the EU with a deal.
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But he said Theresa May’s deal had been rejected three times by the House and could not be brought back again.
“I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal – I would much prefer it,” he said.
“I believe that it is possible even at this late stage and I will work flat out to make it happen.
“But certain things need to be clear. The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this House.
“Its terms are unacceptable to this Parliament and this country,” he said.
He said that his new Government was ready to negotiate with Brussels in good faith.
“We will throw ourselves into these negotiations with the greatest energy and determination and in a spirit of friendship,” he said.
But at the same time he promise to “turbocharge” preparations for a no-deal Brexit in the event that they were unable to come to an agreement with the EU.
Mr Johnson, who earlier chaired the first meeting of his new Cabinet, said Chancellor Sajid Javid had agreed to provide “all necessary funding” to ensure the country was ready to leave at the end of October.
He reaffirmed his leadership campaign pledge to guarantee the rights of the 3.2 million EU nationals living in the UK.
“I can assure them that under this Government they will have the absolute certainty for the right to live and remain,” he said.
At the same time he emphasised the change of direction, saying the Government would not nominate a British commissioner for the new EU Commission set to be formed in December.
He made clear that any new agreement would depend on ending the backstop intended to prevent a return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
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“No country that values its independence, and, indeed, its self respect, could agree to a treaty which signed away our economic independence and self government as this backstop does,” he said.
“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.”
Mr Johnson opened his statement with a resolutely optimistic message, promising to make the UK the “greatest place on earth” by 2050.
“By 2050 it’s more than possible that the United Kingdom will be the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe at the centre of a new network of trade deals which we have pioneered,” he said.
However, Jeremy Corbyn warned Mr Johnson was overestimating the ability of his “hastily thrown together … hard-right Cabinet” to deliver a new Brexit deal.
“No-one underestimates this country but the country is deeply worried that the new Prime Minister overestimates himself,” he said.
“People do not trust this Prime Minister to make the right choices for the majority of the people in this country when he’s also promising tax giveaways to the richest of big business – his own party’s funders.”