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Boris Johnson May Refuse to Step Down and ‘Squat’ as PM For Brexit Plan: Report

Senior aides said UK PM Boris Johnson was prepared to 'squat' in Downing Street even if MPs declare no confidence in his government and agree a caretaker prime minister to replace him.

PTI

Updated:October 6, 2019, 6:54 PM IST
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Boris Johnson May Refuse to Step Down and ‘Squat’ as PM For Brexit Plan: Report
File image of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly making plans to virtually "squat" in Downing Street and refuse to step down even if a no-confidence motion is passed against him over the ongoing Brexit divisions in the UK Parliament, a media report quoting Cabinet insiders claimed on Sunday.

In what would be seen as a major constitutional crisis, Queen Elizabeth II may have to step in and effectively sack a sitting Prime Minister in such a scenario as Johnson pursues his "do or die" pledge to leave the European Union (EU) by the October 31 deadline, 'The Sunday Times' reports.

Senior aides are quoted in the report as saying that Johnson would not stand aside if his latest Brexit proposals were rejected by the EU, leading to MPs rallying together to try and remove him in order to avert a no-deal crash-out from the 28-member economic bloc.

They said Johnson was prepared to "squat" in Downing Street even if MPs declare no confidence in his government and agree a caretaker prime minister to replace him.

There are some reports that indicate that the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow may be one such candidate for a caretaker PM post but efforts are still on to get someone who can command a strong majority in a divided House.

If Johnson chose to ignore the Benn Act, which was passed by MPs recently to avert a Brexit without an agreement in place with the EU, it would amount to breaking the law.

"Unless the police turn up at the doors of 10 Downing Street with a warrant for the Prime Minister's arrest, he won't be leaving," a senior aide told the newspaper.

Writing in two other Sunday newspapers 'The Sun on Sunday' and 'Sunday Express' Johnson himself reiterated his stance against the controversial Irish backstop and said his untested plan to use technology to eliminate customs border checks would take the UK out of EU trade rules while respecting the Northern Ireland peace process.

The backstop is the controversial insurance policy that is meant to keep a free-flowing border on the island of Ireland, but which critics led by Johnson fear could trap the UK in EU trading rules indefinitely.

"I say to our European friends: grasp the opportunity our new proposal provides. Join us at the negotiating table in a spirit of compromise and cooperation," he said.

He claimed MPs from "every wing of the Conservative Party", Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party and from Labour have said "our proposed deal looks like one they can get behind". But he said "there will be no more dither and delay" and the UK would leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.

His Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay also urged the EU to show "flexibility" and open more advanced talks on the PM's plans.

Johnson's proposals would see the UK territory of Northern Ireland effectively stay within the EU single market for goods but leave the common Customs Union, something which has been dubbed an "all-island regulatory zone" on the island of Ireland. But the EU has indicated that it would not be acceptable to all the member-countries.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a key player in the equation as an EU member-country bordering the UK, said he believed a deal was possible but said current proposals did not go far enough.

Indian-origin Labour Party MP Lisa Nandy, seen as one of the few Opposition MPs who could potentially vote for a Conservative Party deal with the EU, attacked Johnson's offer to Brussels unveiled last week as little more than general election posturing.

"I could support a deal. I would support a deal. The problem is at the moment we don't have a deal," she said.

"This is a pre-election party-political broadcast from the Prime Minister, and the truth is that for all of the talk about getting Brexit done, we are further away from achieving a deal than we were two months ago when he became prime minister," the MP added.

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