London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned yesterday that any attempt by MPs next week to stop Brexit or delay it beyond October 31 would do “lasting damage” to public trust in politics.
Johnson said Britons had decided to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum and MPs had promised multiple times to uphold that decision.
“If we stop the UK from leaving on October 31, if that’s what parliamentarians end up doing, it will do lasting damage to people’s trust in politics,” he told Sky News television.
“It will do lasting and catastrophic damage to the major parties in this country. This political generation won’t be forgiven for failing to honour that promise.”
Opposition MPs and some legislators from Johnson’s own Conservatives have said they will legislate to prevent a no-deal Brexit, which the government’s own assessment warns could cause food, fuel and medicine shortages.
But Johnson said preparing for a no-deal Brexit would allow the government to clinch an agreement with Brussels.
“I’m afraid that the more our friends and partners think... that Brexit could be stopped... the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need,” he said.
Johnson on Wednesday moved to suspend parliament in the final weeks before Brexit in what was widely seen as a move to limit the parliamentary time for his opponents.
Queen Elizabeth, on his advice, gave the go-ahead to shutter parliament between mid-September and October 14 – just two weeks before the Brexit date of October 31.
The move sent shockwaves through British politics, triggering a furious outcry from pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal exit.
Wrong-footed, Johnson’s opponents labelled the suspension of parliament a “coup” and a “constitutional outrage”.
The decision is being challenged in several legal cases.
A Scottish judge yesterday rejected a request for a temporary block on the suspension decision but will hear the full case at a further hearing Tuesday.
Former prime minister John Major, a strong supporter of EU membership, and Jo Swinson, the leader of the europhile Liberal Democrats, both said they would join a separate case in London.
It is due to be heard in court on Thursday.
Britain’s Brexit negotiators are to meet their EU counterparts twice a week throughout September, with Johnson saying he wants to “step up the tempo” in talks to find a compromise.
Meanwhile Michael Gove, the minister charged with preparing for no deal, visited the port town of Calais in northern France yesterday.
He could be heard reiterating to French counterparts that Britain intended to allow most goods to enter tariff-free if the two sides fail to agree a divorce agreement.
London wants the so-called backstop, the fallback provisions regarding the Irish border, scrapped.
But the EU appears unconvinced Britain will be able to come up with realistic alternatives.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said they were willing to work “24/7 throughout this long process”.
• The Brexit process has cut the productivity of British companies by between two per cent and 5pc since the 2016 vote to leave the European Union, according to a research paper published by the Bank of England.
Most of the shortfall reflects a drop in productivity within businesses as senior managers commit several hours per week to planning for Brexit, the researchers said.
“We also find evidence for smaller negative between-firm effects as more productive, internationally exposed, firms have been more negatively impacted than less productive domestic firms,” the authors wrote.
Overall, the paper adds to evidence that the Brexit vote has taken a toll on businesses even before Britain leaves the EU.