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EU negotiators 'expect Boris Johnson to break Brexit pledge' if he becomes PM

2 min read

European Union negotiators reportedly expect to see Boris Johnson as the next Prime Minister - but think he will U-turn on his promise to take the UK out of the EU by October 31.

According to The Times and the Daily Mail, Brussels figures believe that whoever wins the Conservative leadership race will agree to an extension to the UK’s departure from the EU.

EU planning is based on the assumption that the risk of a no confidence vote by MPs means Mr Johnson will not force through a no-deal exit if efforts to renegotiate Theresa May's Brexit deal flounder, the Daily Mail reporrts.

Meanwhile The Times reports that senior officials, including those in contact with UK counterparts, believe Mr Johnson will “give a serious try to getting a new deal”, as he has pledged, but that this will require an extension.

Timetabling issues are widely expected to mean that formal negotiations will not reopen until October, leaving just a few weeks for Theresa May’s replacement to draw up a new deal or seek to push back the deadline. 

A senior official told The Times: “Even the boldest prime minister for a no-deal will have to demonstrate he has had one serious try and that means an extension.

“Johnson will want to last more than ten days in power so will need to try getting it over the line. He, or whoever it is, will not be able to hide the need for an extension.”

Meanwhile a senior source told the Mail that some in Brussels believe Mr Johnson will try to sell an amended version of the outgoing PM’s deal.

“A lot of people are scared about Boris, but I don't think he is the worst of all. 

“I think Boris can sell things back home that Theresa May probably couldn't.

“If people really brief Boris and talk him through the implications of No Deal, I think he will really think twice.”

Five of the remaining six contenders for the Tory leadership have not ruled out pursuing a no-deal Brexit.

Commons votes have consistently indicated that MPs are overwhelmingly against pursuing such a path, although moves to block it off have failed.

Mr Johnson’s current main rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has countenanced the idea but has warned it could lead to a confidence vote and a possible election.

Mr Johnson has refused to rule out suspending parliament to force through a no-deal exit, but Commons speaker John Bercow is widely expected to try and block any attempt to bypass MPs on the issue.

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