Commitment to no-deal Brexit is real warns Johnson

Britain’s Conservative Party leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson has reiterated his commitment to the Oct 31 Brexit deadline, saying the nation must be “match fit for no deal” to ensure it can leave the European Union”come what may”.

In a retort to his rival Jeremy Hunt, who had referred to Oct 31 as a “fake deadline”, Johnson said: “We need a change of direction. That’s why we must treat Oct 31 as a real deadline for leaving the EU, come what may, not a fake one.”

“What I’m offering is a more optimistic, dynamic approach to these negotiations. I want a deal. I believe our European friends want one and they will be in no doubt that we are serious because we will prepare all-out for no deal.

He said discussions on the Irish border issue must be moved into their “proper place”– which is into the talks on the future trading relationship. “If our friends feel they cannot agree, then we will be match fit for no deal,” he said.

Johnson also signalled that the UK would be prepared to tear up red tape and slash taxes. “We will be free to substantially diverge on tax and regulation,” he said. “I have had enough of being told that we cannot do it – that the sixth biggest economy in the world is not strong enough to run itself and go forward in the world.”

Johnson, who was the public face of the Vote Leave referendum campaign, said he felt a “deep sense of personal responsibility for Brexit”, adding: “This is it. No second chances.

“We can choose more of the same, or we can choose change: delivering Brexit on Oct 31, uniting the country and beating (Jeremy) Corbyn.

Business lobby group the Confederation of British Industry, or CBI, has warned that the rising threat of no-deal Brexit could set Britain on course for the biggest decline in investment since the financial crisis of 2008.

The CBI warned that business spending in the UK economy was set to decline by about 1.3 percent in 2019 compared with a year ago – the steepest drop since the last recession in 2009.

Rain Newton-Smith, the chief economist at the CBI, said: “For any business it’s hard to take spending decisions now. When the risk of a no-deal Brexit feels very real at the moment, why would you take a big decision now? You would wait and see until the end of October. The main risk, though, is we fall off a cliff of no-deal Brexit.”

The former top civil servant at the Department for Exiting the European Union has said the British public should be concerned about the prospect of no deal.

Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the department, said: “I think everybody should be worried about what happens in a no-deal situation. We would be taking a step into the unknown.”

He told the BBC that while Brexit planning in the civil service was in good shape, leaving with no deal would be “fraught with difficulty” and an abrupt and major change.

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