New PM Johnson says Britain will come out of EU on Oct. 31 ‘no ifs or buts’


LONDON: Britain will come out of the European Union on Oct. 31 “no ifs or buts”, new Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

Speaking in Downing Street, Johnson said he was going to do “a new deal, a better deal” with the European Union.

“We are going to fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts,” he said.

Speaking outside his new Downing Street office, Johnson — who spearheaded the “Leave” campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum — promised to do a “new deal” with Brussels.

After being formally appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, Johnson set out his mission statement, insisting that the vote to leave the European Union must be respected.

“We will do a new deal. A better deal that will maximise the opportunities of Brexit,” the 55-year-old said. “I have every confidence that in 99 days’ time we will have cracked it.

“The British people have had enough of waiting.”

The new Conservative Party leader also made a raft of domestic policy announcements in a nearly 12-minute address.

“I will take personal responsibility for the change I want to see,” he said, with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds watching with his team of aides.

“Never mind the backstop: the buck stops here,” he said.

“If there is one thing that has really sapped the confidence of business, it is not the decisions we have taken — it is our refusal to take decisions.

“Brexit was a fundamental decision by the British people that they wanted their laws made by people that they elected and that they can remove from office.

“We must now respect that decision,” he said.

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Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May

British lawmakers gave outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May a standing ovation as they applauded her out of the House of Commons chamber after her final, at times emotional, appearance as a leader on Wednesday.

May, 62, appeared to be fighting back tears as she left, stopping to shake hands with the speaker, John Bercow, on her way out. She will officially hand over to her successor Boris Johnson later on Wednesday.

“Later today I will return to the backbenches and it will be my first time in 21 years so it is going to be quite a change,” May told lawmakers as her final weekly question session in parliament came to a close.

Praising the link between lawmakers and the constituents they represent as “the bedrock of our parliamentary democracy”, May’s voice quivered as she finished: “That duty to serve my constituents will remain my greatest motivation.”

The hour-long session, which her husband Philip watched from the public gallery, saw lawmakers from across the political divide pay tribute to May’s public service and sense of duty, despite voicing their disagreement with many of her policies.

Television footage from a news helicopter over parliament showed parliamentary staff lined up in a courtyard, clapping and taking photos on their phones as she walked to her car to return to her Downing Street residence for the final time.

She is expected to make a short speech in Downing Street before going to see Queen Elizabeth to formally stand down and recommend Johnson be asked to form a government.

May took over as prime minister in the aftermath of the 2016 vote to leave the European Union and is standing down just over three years later having failed to deliver Brexit, her divorce deal with the bloc rejected three times by a deeply divided parliament.

Brexit challenge

Johnson is expected to swiftly announce his new cabinet, and his first appointment proved predictably contentious.

He named as a top adviser Dominic Cummings, a combative character who helped lead the victorious “Vote Leave” campaign during the 2016 EU referendum.

May resigned after failing to get her plan for leaving the EU through parliament, forcing her to twice delay Britain’s departure date.

Johnson has vowed to renegotiate her deal or take Britain out of the bloc at the next deadline, October 31, without any agreement with Brussels.

But the EU refuses to reopen the text, while some of his own MPs have said they might even bring down the government rather than accept a damaging “no-deal” exit.

May took over three years ago promising to deal with the “burning injustices” in society but leaves behind a divided party, country and Brexit in doubt.

In a short speech in Downing Street, before tendering her resignation to the queen at the palace, she wished Johnson “every good fortune”.

A heckler shouted “Stop Brexit” as she stood with her husband Philip by her side, to which she retorted: “I think not.”

But she emphasised that Brexit should be done “in a way that works for the whole United Kingdom”, amid fears a disorderly divorce could cause irreparable damage to ties between England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

During his victory speech on Tuesday, Johnson urged Britain to “ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity” and vowed to unite the country.

A source in his campaign team said he would build a diverse cabinet with more women and a record number of ethnic minority politicians.

‘Britain Trump’

Brexit aside, the most immediate problem facing Johnson is a stand-off with Iran after Tehran seized a UK-flagged tanker in the Gulf last week.

The current foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was Johnson´s rival for the leadership and is not expected to keep his job, although he may stay in the cabinet.

May´s government also provoked the ire of US President Donald Trump this month with the leak of diplomatic cables criticising the White House.

Johnson has emphasised the importance of Britain´s relations with the United States.

And Trump was one of the first to congratulate Johnson on his victory saying he would be “great” and describing him as “Britain Trump”.

Trump suggested Johnson would work together well with anti-EU figurehead Nigel Farage, whose Brexit Party has taken a big chunk of eurosceptic votes from the Conservatives.

Johnson has ruled out any electoral pact.