Boris Johnson predicts 'million-to-one' chance of no-deal Brexit

PM hopeful Boris Johnson leaves a building in Westminster, London.
PM hopeful Boris Johnson leaves a building in Westminster, London.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Boris Johnson once again softened his Brexit rhetoric on Wednesday (June 26) evening saying there was "a million to one" chance of leaving the European Union without a deal.

The front runner to replace Mrs Theresa May as prime minister said the chances of no-deal were minimal, even though a day earlier he had pledged to leave the EU on Oct 31, "do or die".

The new leader will have less than seven weeks to negotiate a new deal with the EU after Parliament returns from summer recess in September.

With such a tight timescale, Mr Johnson's opponent, Mr Jeremy Hunt, has said he would be prepared to delay the deadline if the two sides appeared to be closing in on a deal.

Mr Johnson has refused to allow a delay and on Wednesday told a campaign event that it was "absolutely vital" the country gets ready for a no-deal scenario, even though it was unlikely.

"I don't think that's where we're going to end up. I think it's a million to one against, but it is vital that we prepare. And I think that's agreed among the last two people standing in this," he said.

Mr Johnson's critics accuse him of misleading people in an attempt to play to two crowds. They say instead he is prepared to tell people what they want to hear, even if he is contradicting himself. He has twice been fired for dishonesty.

 
 
 
 

Wednesday saw members of Mr Johnson's campaign team signalling a willingness to ignore Parliament if it tried to block a no-deal Brexit.

"We will leave at the end of October, come what may, that is the legal default position, and Parliament does not have the means to overturn that," Ms Andrea Leadsom told the BBC.

Earlier, Mr Dominic Raab told BBC radio that any motion from MPs to urge Mr Johnson to change course would have "zero legal effect."

Mr Johnson's own position, on Monday evening, was slightly different: He said he believed Parliament was ready to vote for a no-deal Brexit.

He said he "wasn't attracted to archaic devices" such as proroguing, or suspending, Parliament in order to ensure Britain leaves on time.

'ABSOLUTELY FATAL'

Despite acknowledging the need for a slight delay, Mr Hunt also said he would be prepared to walk away from negotiations with the EU if a deal looked unlikely. He warned that the Conservative Party would be "thrashed" in a general election if it took place before Brexit, which could put opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in power.

"I won't fight an election until we've left the European Union because to do so would be absolutely fatal for our party," he said.

Agreeing with Mr Hunt, Mr Johnson said that "it would be absolutely crazy for any of us to think of going to the country and calling a general election before we get Brexit done".

He said the politics of the country have changed since March 29, when Britain was due to leave the EU, and there has been an outbreak of "common sense" in Parliament - a suggestion he thinks he can get a deal through.

The Wednesday night hustings will be followed by events around the country for party members on Thursday evening and Friday morning, and then two on Saturday.