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24 May 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 4:24pm

Boris Johnson has embraced the prospect of a no-deal Brexit

By Eleni Courea

Boris Johnson has set out his stall on Brexit and it’s bad news for moderate Tories.

Speaking at a conference in Switzerland shortly after May’s resignation, he said that “a new leader will have the opportunity to do things differently and have the momentum of a new administration. We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal. The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no deal.”

His words suggest that should he succeed May, he’ll go back to the European Union and try to renegotiate the deal, but that if he fails to get a satisfactory outcome, he won’t seek another extension and instead press ahead with a no deal Brexit.

It’s a challenge to the group of 60 or so moderate One Nation Conservatives – led by Amber Rudd and Damian Green – who’ve taken it upon themselves to prevent no deal.

Many of them are resigned to the prospect of Johnson becoming prime minister. Particularly in the event of a run-off between the two frontliners, Johnson and Dominic Raab, they’re expected to back Johnson as he’s seen as likelier to compromise than Raab, who is a hardliner. In Johnson they see potential for liberalism and modernisation, dating back to his days as mayor of London. 

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For his part, Johnson has opened his arms to the One Nation group, tweeting that he shared all their principles and beliefs: “One Nation values have never been more important.” Prominent moderates were hopeful of trading their support for senior cabinet jobs and a Brexit compromise.

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But now, Johnson’s made it clear that he has no qualms about pursuing a no-deal Brexit – a position that will no doubt make him yet more popular with the party membership. It’s effectively a challenge to One Nation Tories: “stop me if you can”.