Boris Johnson vows to hold back £39bn divorce bill until EU offers better Brexit deal
Boris Johnson has said he will refuse to hand over the £39bn EU divorce payment until the bloc offers better terms, if he becomes the next Prime Minister.
The frontrunner to succeed Theresa May said he thought it was “extraordinary” that ministers had agreed to the payment before the Brexit deal had been finalised and added that “money is a great solvent and a great lubricant” in getting a good deal.
“I think our friends and partners need to understand that the money is going to be retained until such time as we have greater clarity about the way forward,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Times.
Putting forward his pitch, the ex-foreign secretary said that the UK must leave the EU with or without a deal on 31 October and that only he could see off the twin threat of Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage.
Referring to Greek mythology, he said: “I truly believe only I can steer the country between the Scylla and Charybdis of Corbyn and Farage and onto calmer water. This can only be achieved by delivering Brexit as promised on October 31 and delivering a One Nation Tory agenda.”
He also vowed to scrap the Northern Ireland backstop - the mechanism to guarantee an open border in Ireland after Brexit which the EU has consistently refused to contemplate axing - and settle the issue only when the bloc was ready to agree a future relationship.
Elsewhere Mr Johnson said he would guarantee the rights of the 3.2 million EU citizens in Britain, adding: “That is something that I think would be very welcome on the other side of the Channel.”
The pledges comes as he won the backing of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Wales Secretary Alun Cairns, as well as prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker and former international development secretary Priti Patel.
The former frontbencher vowed to win over sceptical moderate Tories with a “One Nation” approach to government that would mirror his time as Mayor of London.
“I am a One Nation Conservative. If people want to see my political identity let them look at what we did in London," he said.
"I ran a big team and a team of stars that got a huge amount done. I governed the greatest city on earth from the centre ground of politics."
Mr Johnson's pledge to withhold the divorce money due to Brussels prompted criticism from leadership rival Rory Stewart however - who has already ruled out serving in any government led by him.