Boris Johnson urges ‘creative ambiguity’ over £39bn cost of Brexit divorce deal

Boris Johnson has called for “creative ambiguity” over the £39 billion cost of the UK’s Brexit divorce deal.

The former Vote Leave leader, who hopes to become prime minister, also called for a “commonsensical” no-deal exit to allow the “incubus” of Brexit to be “pitchforked off the back of British politics”.

Mr Johnson suggested the combination of the money and a “change of approach” would be enough to solve the conundrum that has left MPs unable to agree on a way forward.

As prime minister, Mr Johnson said he would want to revisit the Withdrawal Agreement plan to pay the EU £39 billion.

He said: “I think the £39 billion is at the upper end of the EU’s expectations but there is it, it’s a considerable sum.

“I think there should be creative ambiguity about when and how that gets paid over.”

Calling on the UK to “abandon the defeatism and negativity” Mr Johnson claimed the route out of the impasse was “to prepare confidently and seriously for a WTO or no-deal outcome”.

He added: “It is not where I believe for a moment we will end up.

“But in order to get the result that we want, in order to get the deal we need, the commonsensical protraction of the existing arrangements until such time as we have completed the free trade deal between us and the EU that will be so beneficial to both times.

“The commonsensical thing to do is to prepare for a WTO exit.”

Mr Johnson claimed he would be able get such a no-deal Brexit through Parliament.

“I think that MPs on both sides of the House also understand that they will face mortal retribution from the electorate unless we get on and do it,” he said.

“People want to get this thing done. They want to get it done sensibly… and they want to get it done in a way that allows us to move on which is why I think people are yearning, they’re yearning for this great Incubus to be pitchforked off the back of British politics.”

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson during the first party hustings at the ICC in Birmingham (Ben Birchall/PA)

The former foreign secretary criticised the UK negotiating team for being the “authors of our own incarceration” in creating the backstop to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Suggesting he would dump the negotiators, Mr Johnson said: “Change the approach of the UK negotiators and you have a very different outcome.”

But when picked up on what would enable to UK to avoid any backstop, Mr Johnson could not name an existing technology.

He said: “Let me tell you, there are abundant, abundant technical fixes that can be introduced to make sure that you don’t have to have checks at the border.

“That’s the crucial thing. And everybody accepts that there are ways you can check for the rules origin, there are ways you can check for compliance with EU goods and standards, of our goods standards.”

Mr Johnson also insisted he would have an implementation period – despite this being part of Theresa May’s deal, which he had earlier dismissed as “dead”.

He said: “The important thing is that there should be an agreement that the solution of the border questions, the Irish border, the Northern Irish border questions, and all the facilitation that we want to produce to get that done.

“All those issues need to be tackled on the other side of October 31 during what’s called the Implementation Period.”

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