Boris Johnson has ‘no intention’ of keeping Brexit promises, People’s Vote supporters warn

Exclusive: Campaign releases ‘six tests’ based on the likely PM’s past Brexit promises he will now struggle to meet

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 22 July 2019 21:23 BST
Boris Johnson in profile

The UK’s probable next prime minister Boris Johnson has “little or no intention” of keeping promises he made during the EU referendum campaign, supporters of a People’s Vote have warned.

Campaigners released a list of “six tests” for the new PM based on his own previous claims that Brexit would mean a “rapid” and comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA), tariff-free movement of goods to the EU, no hard border in Ireland, a £350m weekly dividend to be spent on the NHS, large numbers of trade deals elsewhere in the world, and full clarity about the future relationship with Europe.

But they said Mr Johnson – who is expected to be confirmed as Theresa May’s successor on Tuesday – will “struggle” to deliver any of these things because of the hardline positions he has taken during the Conservative leadership race. The “reckless and extreme” hard Brexit or no-agreement outcomes he is now pursuing are “a million miles away” from what he promised voters in 2016, they said.

David Lammy, prominent Labour supporter of a Final Say referendum, said: “One theme runs through Boris Johnson’s career like letters through a stick of rock: that he will say anything to get what he wants and cares little or nothing about the consequences when he lets people down.

“That is as true of his approach to Brexit as it is to everything else. He has made six big promises to people about what Brexit will mean, but it is now very clear he has little or no intention of keeping all or any of them.”

Despite telling parliament in 2017 there was “no plan for no deal because we are going to get a great deal”, Mr Johnson has declared the only available deal – Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement – “dead” while refusing to take a no-deal Brexit off the table, said the People’s Vote.

His earlier assurances there would “continue to be free trade and access to the single market” would be possible only if the UK left with a deal or stayed in the EU, say the campaigners. And they dismissed his claim that the World Trade Organisation’s Gatt 24 rule would allow continued tariff-free trade after a no-deal outcome, as this requires both sides to sign up to the shape of a future FTA.

Campaigners say Mr Johnson has promised no hard border in Ireland but has also pledged to remove the controversial backstop, which the EU and Dublin insist is the only way of ensuring an open border. And far from delivering a £350m-a-week boost to the UK’s coffers, the Office for Budget Responsibility has recently warned a no-deal Brexit could throw the country into recession.

Mr Lammy said it was “delusional” for Mr Johnson to suggest the US would improve its animal welfare standards in order to strike a trade deal with the UK, rather than insist on Britain accepting chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-boosted beef. And despite previously arguing a “blind Brexit” would make no sense, the People’s Vote said the former foreign secretary was risking “the ultimate blind Brexit” by contemplating pulling the UK out without an agreement.

“Instead of working to deliver his promises on trade, on security, on the Northern Ireland border, on money for the NHS, on consumer protection and on clarity about the future, Johnson will instead claim today that his election to the position of Conservative leader by the 0.25 per cent of the population who are Tory members gives him a mandate for a reckless and extreme hard Brexit or even a destructive no deal,” said Mr Lammy.

“But he has no such mandate, and no such claim can ever be legitimate because what Johnson now proposes is a million miles away from anything he promised in the referendum or after. Instead of a trade and security deal, no deal will see us quit the EU with nothing, despite the huge costs and risks that means. If, instead, he signs up to the withdrawal agreement then Johnson will be agreeing to the Irish backstop he keeps telling us is unacceptable. Either way we will have no clarity about the future, and face years of wrangling and disagreement.”

The Labour MP added: “The real prospect is that Johnson will attempt to compensate for the damage of a no-deal exit by signing up to a shotgun wedding deal with Donald Trump. That means submitting to the president’s ‘America First’ agenda.

“Bending the knee to Trump means Johnson will have to break all the promises he made to protect and strengthen the NHS and to keep chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef off our shelves. For it is delusional to think that Trump will do anything other than use British weakness as an opportunity to force his will on us.

“No vote by Conservative Party members can ever make any of this promise-breaking legitimate, fair or democratic. With parliamentary gridlock only likely to worsen as more and more Conservatives turn away from Johnson’s agenda, there remains only one way out of this crisis that offers clarity and closure – and that is to hand the final say on Brexit back to the public in a People’s Vote.”

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