UK PM Johnson pitches Brexit to Parliament
British Prime Minister says leaving the European Union will make Britain 'greatest place on earth'
LONDON : British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised yesterday to make Britain the greatest place on earth by leaving the European Union on Oct 31.
"Our mission is to deliver Brexit on the 31st of October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth," Mr Johnson told Parliament in his first speech as prime minister.
He also said that "no one believes more strongly than me in the benefits of migration to our country" and that it is "clear that our migration policy must change".
He said he will ask the migration advisory committee to look into an Australian-style points system for migration.
He also told the European Union yesterday that the Irish border backstop would have to be struck out of the Brexit divorce agreement if there was to be an orderly exit with a deal.
Mr Johnson said the Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, must be abolished.
"It must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop," Mr Johnson said.
The Irish backstop is contained in a protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement which Johnson's predecessor, Mrs Theresa May, agreed to in November.
It is the most contentious part of the deal for British lawmakers, who fear it will slice Northern Ireland off from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Mr Johnson's government does not have a majority in Parliament so rules with the help of 10 Northern Irish lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party, who vehemently oppose the backstop.
He has also set the world's fifth largest economy up for a showdown with the EU. He has promised to do a new Brexit deal with the bloc in less than 99 days but has warned that if EU leaders refused - something he said was a "remote possibility" - then Britain would leave without a deal, "no ifs or buts".
Mr Johnson's bet is that the threat of a no-deal Brexit will persuade the EU's biggest powers - Germany and France - to agree to revise the divorce deal that Mrs May agreed last November but failed to get ratified.
The EU has so far repeatedly refused to countenance rewriting the Withdrawal Agreement but has said it could change the "Political Declaration" on future ties that is part of the divorce deal.
Mr Johnson also made one of the biggest culls of senior government jobs in recent British history.
"Night of the Blond Knives," said The Sun, Britain's most-read newspaper, a reference to the colour of Johnson's dishevelled mop of hair and the changes to his government.
A total of 17 ministers in May's government either resigned or were sacked, creating a powerful new group of enemies in parliament. Most of Mr Johnson's senior appointees are Brexit supporters.
Mr Sajid Javid, 49, was named as his finance minister. He is a eurosceptic who voted to remain in the 2016 referendum.
Others are avowed Brexiteers: Ms Priti Patel was appointed interior minister, Mr Dominic Raab was appointed foreign minister and Stephen Barclay remained as Brexit minister. - REUTERS