Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

Boris Johnson hardens Brexit line but stays silent on domestic row

Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt said Britain’s choice for next prime minister would have to be trustworthy

Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain’s Conservative Party, says he will take the UK out of the European Union by October 31, with or without a deal. Reuters
Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain’s Conservative Party, says he will take the UK out of the European Union by October 31, with or without a deal. Reuters

Boris Johnson, the man tipped to become Britain’s next prime minister, hardened his Brexit stance on Tuesday but repeatedly failed to answer questions about a heated, late-night altercation with his girlfriend at her house last week.

The former mayor of London and foreign secretary said he would ensure the UK left the EU in time for the October 31 deadline, which has been pushed back twice from the original date of March 28.

“We are getting ready to come out on 31 October. Come what may,” Mr Johnson told Talkradio.

He said he would discard former prime minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement and look to negotiate a new deal before the deadline.

But Mr Johnson refused to explain why police were called last week to his girlfriend Carrie Symonds’ house after neighbours overheard a heated row between the pair.

Days later, a photo surfaced online of the couple looking affectionate in the middle of the Sussex countryside. Critics said it look staged.

Mr Johnson repeatedly avoided answering questions on LBC radio about when the photo had been taken.

Meanwhile, leadership rival and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt put his focus on whether Mr Johnson could be trusted in Downing Street.

“It’s about who is the person we trust to go to Brussels and bring back that deal,” Mr Hunt told the BBC. “It’s about the personality of the prime minister.”

He said he believed a new deal could be negotiated but doing so would not be easy.

Mr Hunt, who is trailing Mr Johnson in the leadership race, said that because he had been an entrepreneur, he would be best placed to negotiate with Brussels.

He said he was willing to go over the October 31 Brexit deadline, although he would back a no-deal Brexit as “a last resort” and “with a heavy heart”.

“It’s a fake deadline that will trip us into a general election before delivering on Brexit and hand the keys of No 10 to [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn,” he said.

Mr Johnson’s interviews were in response to criticism for avoiding the media spotlight during the leadership race.

Mr Hunt has repeatedly derided him for refusing to debate him on British television.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Hunt tweeted: “Hi Boris, it’s good to talk. But no need for snail-mail. Why not turn up to Sky tonight and I’ll give you full and frank answers? #BoJoNoShow,”

The leader of the Conservative party and Britain’s next prime minister will be decided by about 160,000 Tory party members during the week of July 22.

Updated: July 4, 2019 01:07 AM

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