July 17, 2019 / 7:47 PM / a month ago

Johnson declines to comment on plan to facilitate a no-deal Brexit

LONDON (Reuters) - Boris Johnson, favourite to be the next British prime minister, on Wednesday refused to say whether he would seek to shut Parliament to facilitate a no-deal Brexit but agreed such a plan could be convenient for him.

Sky News reported on Tuesday that Johnson is considering holding the Queen’s Speech, in which the prime minister lays out his policy programme, in November. That means lawmakers would be sent home two weeks earlier, hindering their ability to stop Britain’s leaving the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31.

“I’m not going to comment on our programme,” Johnson said, asked at a hustings event when he would introduce a Queen’s Speech. Asked about the convenience of a November Queen’s Speech, he said, “I’m not going to dissent from you. That seems like a reasonable point.”

On Tuesday, an already weak sterling fell further on the news on the no-deal Brexit plan, dipping below $1.24 for the first time since April 2017.

Johnson, likely to be announced as the winner of the Conservative Party leadership race next Tuesday and therefore the next prime minister, has said he wants to secure a withdrawal deal with the EU but is prepared to leave without one if necessary.

He told the hustings event for party members on Wednesday that he was willing to negotiate with the EU, but if faced with a lack of flexibility or compromise, Britain would have to leave regardless.

Even so, Johnson said he sensed a change among members of Parliament, who repeatedly rejected outgoing premier Theresa May’s Brexit deal to force her to announce her resignation, and said he believed many now just want to get Brexit done.

“Do I think that MPs are now psychologically ready to get this thing over the line? ... Yes I do,” Johnson said at the hustings, the final such event of the leadership campaign.

Johnson has proposed a standstill agreement with Brussels under which trade between the two sides would not face tariffs or quotas while a future trade agreement is negotiated. Brussels has said it will not renegotiate the withdrawal terms it has already agreed with May.

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Johnson said that any such transition period should end well before the next election, scheduled for 2022.

“We should come out well before the next election,” he told the ITV Peston programme.

Johnson said that if he became prime minister, he would launch a high-profile advertising campaign so that businesses would be aware what to do to prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit.

Reporting by Alistair Smout and Kate Holton; Editing by Leslie Adler

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