Mon. Sep 25th, 2023
Brexit: Boris Johnson says people ‘shouldn’t get hopes up too soon’ about prospects of deal – as it happened | Politics
Brexit: Boris Johnson says people ‘shouldn’t get hopes up too soon’ about prospects of deal – as it happened | Politics

Key events

Afternoon summary

  • Boris Johnson has played down the prospect of an early breakthrough in talks with the EU intended to resolve the Brexit crisis, saying people “shouldn’t necessarily get their hopes up too soon”. (See 3.36pm.)

It is just plain wrong for Boris Johnson to label refugees crossing the Channel as ‘illegal migrants’.

Quite apart from the dehumanising language, there is nothing illegal about seeking sanctuary in the UK, and it is shameful that we have a prime minister who says it is.

We know that many of these people have fled persecution in Iran. For the prime minister to casually dismiss their rights to asylum with no evidence whatsoever is unlawful and inhumane.

The way to stop these dangerous crossings is through an effective and compassionate response: investing in a stronger Border Force to stop the smugglers and traffickers, while ensuring safe, legal routes to sanctuary for those forced out of their home countries.

  • MP Jared O’Mara has been arrested on suspicion of fraud, according to multiple sources, the BBC is reporting.

That’s all from me for today.

I’m not in next week, but hopefully a colleague will be writing a blog on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Thanks for the comments.

Jeremy Corbyn holding 9-month-old Narrah Godfrey-Collin during a visit to a kids’ lunch club in Swansea, Wales, this afternoon.
Jeremy Corbyn holding 9-month-old Narrah Godfrey-Collin during a visit to a kids’ lunch club in Swansea, Wales, this afternoon. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

A reader has been in touch to say that Boris Johnson’s comment about migrants, “if you come illegally, you are an illegal migrant and I’m afraid the law will treat you as such”, is misleading. (See 3.44pm.) As this Full Fact briefing explains, the UN Refugee Convention says that people can legitimately make a claim for asylum in the UK even if they enter the country without legal authorisation.

Boris Johnson posted this on Twitter about his breakfast with Prue Leith, after she was appointed to advise a government review looking at hospital food.

Later, visiting Torbay Hospital in Devon, Johnson where he met staff and patients catering and hospital staff and patients and served a ham salad lunch to patient Wenona Pappin, 70, from Paignton.

“Good afternoon, this is your lunch, I’m Boris,” Johnson told her. “Is that really what you want? You don’t want fish and chips?”

Explaining why the review was needed, he said:

We get too many complaints from patients about the quality of the food and I think it does affect their experience when they are in hospital.

And sometimes it can be something as simple as not having hot toast, and having toast actually made on the wards, so one thing you want to deliver is hot buttered toast for the patients of this country.

Boris Johnson serves food to Wenona Pappin, aged 70, during a visit to Torbay Hospital in Torquay,
Boris Johnson serves food to Wenona Pappin, aged 70, during a visit to Torbay Hospital in Torquay, Photograph: POOL/Reuters

Boris Johnson has also told migrants not to cross the English Channel to get to the UK as “we will send you back”. Speaking to reporters on his Devon visit, Johnson said:

Clearly the most important thing is to stop them coming across from France so we are working very closely with the French authorities.

The point I would just make to people thinking of making this journey – one, it is very hazardous, you may think the weather looks great but it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do.

The second thing is – we will send you back. The UK should not be regarded as a place where you could automatically come and break the law by seeking to arrive illegally.

If you come illegally, you are an illegal migrant and I’m afraid the law will treat you as such.

As the Press Association reports, authorities were called to at least seven incidents on Thursday involving 94 people who were trying to cross the water from France to get to the UK. The wave of attempted crossings continued today – with UK authorities understood to have been called to the Kent coast near Lydd. Priti Patel, the home secretary, is due to discuss the situation with her French counterpart in the next few days.

UPDATE: Johnson’s explanation of the legal position is misleading. See 4.29pm for details.

Boris Johnson says people ‘shouldn’t get hopes up too soon’ about prospects of Brexit deal

Boris Johnson has played down hopes of an early breakthrough in talks with the EU intended to resolve the Brexit crisis. In comments that suggest he thinks some of the reporting of what he achieved this week has been over-optimistic, he said that while the “mood music” when he visited Berlin and Paris was “very good”, people “shouldn’t necessarily get their hopes up too soon”.

Speaking to reporters on a visit to Devon, he said:

[Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron] could see that we want a deal, they can see the problems with the backstop. Clearly Angela Merkel thinks that the solutions can be found within 30 days – actually what she meant was if you can do it in two years you can certainly do it in 30 days.

But I want to caution everybody, OK? Because this is not going to be a cinch, this is not going to be easy. We will have to work very hard to get this thing done …

We have to have an arrangement that allows the whole UK to come out of the EU and have frictionless trade at the border in Northern Ireland. There are lots of ways that we can make sure that happens. But to persuade our EU friends and partners, who are very, very, very hard over against it, will take some time …

I’m afraid we will have to prepare to come out without an agreement and we can do that, we are very confident that we will be OK because we will have all sorts of preparations in place.

We are making progress but I am just telling people not to hold their breath, because I have seen the way these Brussels negotiations work.

Johnson said that it was “always on the steps of the court, as it were, that the deal is done”. He went on:

I must urge people – we are going to be working very hard on this but they shouldn’t necessarily get their hopes up too soon.

Boris Johnson waving as he leaves following a visit to Torbay Hospital.
Boris Johnson waving as he leaves following a visit to Torbay Hospital. Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

My colleague Jennifer Rankin in Brussels has been checking out the Sun story flagged up earlier (see 11.23am) saying the EU is considering a compromise on the backstop. This is what she’s found.

Is the EU really brainstorming about a stripped-down version of the backstop, covering only agri-food?

The short answer – from three EU sources – is no.


— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) August 23, 2019

The slightly longer answer: level playing field on goods, preventing smuggling, customs codes, really matter to EU member states. Diplomats do not want to abandon these guarantees now.

— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) August 23, 2019

Now the British have taken ownership of coming up with solutions – “the blistering timetable” Johnson identified – EU does not see why they should volunteer ideas now.


— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) August 23, 2019

Some EU sources perceive a British trial balloon being floated over Brussels. Insiders stress the answer still lies in a rewritten political declaration, not a rejigged backstop. So as we were.


— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) August 23, 2019

Boris Johnson backs Macron’s call for Amazon fires to be treated as international crisis

Boris Johnson has said he strongly backs President Macron’s call for the fires in the Amazon rainforest to be treated as an international crisis. On a visit to a hospital Johnson said:

I passionately share the view of Emmanuel Macron, and one of the things I am going to be raising at the G7 is the horrific loss of habitats and species around the world.

We are going through an extinction of diversity, of biodiversity across the planet, we are down to about 15,000 lions left in the wild, perhaps 3,000 tigers in India, the population of elephants has declined at about 8% a year.

What we in the UK want to do is lead the world now in setting targets for the retention, the maintenance, and the improvement of habitat, and stop this terrible loss of biodiversity, so set targets for keeping the species that we inherited on this planet.

Here is Macron’s tweet on the topic from yesterday.

Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson Photograph: BBC

Jake Berry, the minister for the Northern Powerhouse, told the World at One that Boris Johnson’s trips to Berlin and Paris this week showed that the EU is “softening its stance” on Brexit. Berry claimed:

The government has refocused absolutely on no-deal planning, but it is really important that your listeners realise that that is not our preferred route.

Of course, our new prime minister, Boris Johnson, was in Germany and Paris this week, and I thought we started to see a crack or a chink of light with Europe softening its stance.

The common view amongst informed observers (see here for some examples) is that this is an over-optimistic interpretation of what Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron were saying.

Jake Berry.
Jake Berry. Photograph: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock

The Department for International Trade has posted this response to the Labour complaint about a tweet from its minister, Conor Burns. (See 9.56am.)

In response to @MetroUK story on trade talks with Brazil, we’re clear:
The UK remains committed to protecting the world’s rainforests and will continue to do so. Trade Minister @ConorBurnsUK raised this commitment in meetings with the Brazilian government this week.

— Department for International Trade (@tradegovuk) August 23, 2019

And Burns himself has said this.

I am proud to serve in a Government which has set the most ambitious agenda to reduce carbon emissions in history. Sharing the technologies that protect the planet in which we are global leaders will be a key part of our trade agenda.

— Conor Burns MP (@ConorBurnsUK) August 23, 2019

Corbyn condemns Bolsonaro over fires burning in Amazon rainforest

Jeremy Corbyn has urged Boris Johnson to take a stand against the Brazilian government over its failure to protect the Amazon rainforest. In an interview with broadcasters, he said:

[The Brazilian president Jair] Bolsonaro has allowed and indeed encouraged these fires to take place, to clear the forest in order that the land can then be used for actually very short term agriculture production and after that it becomes desert.

That is what’s happening to the rainforest. The rainforest is an international resource, it’s a carbon sink that we all need and rely on.

And so we, the Labour party, the shadow cabinet, have written to the prime minister to say: put all the pressure you can on President Bolsonaro to deal with this issue, and when you’re at the G7 summit raise the issue because it is one of global concern.

If the Amazon rainforest is destroyed, if the West African rainforest is destroyed, then actually we all suffer. We’re in this together, we have to save this planet together. That means taking the climate emergency very seriously and speaking out on the international stage to those people that have it in their power to stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

Here’s a copy of the letter.

I have written to the PM with colleagues on the Labour front bench, asking him to tell President Bolsonaro that his destruction of the Amazon must stop, and to introduce tough measures to stop companies in the UK from aiding and abetting tropical deforestation #ActForTheAmazon

— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) August 23, 2019

Number 10 has said that Johnson is “deeply concerned” about what is happening to the Amazon rainforests and that at the G7 summit he will be discussing what can be done to protect nature and tackle climate change.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Caroline Lucas urges Corbyn to back another MP for leader of interim government if he cannot become PM himself

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, has urged Jeremy Corbyn to back another MP for leader of an interim government to stop a no-deal Brexit if he cannot become PM himself. She made the call in a statement ahead of the meeting Corbyn has organised for next week with other opposition MPs, and some Tories, to discuss how they can work together to block a no-deal Brexit. Lucas said:

A no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for this country and parliament must prevent it in any way possible. Jeremy Corbyn has done the right thing by reaching out to colleagues and I welcome the fact that all the opposition parties in the House of Commons have accepted his invitation for discussions. I would urge all MPs who have been approached and who recognise the danger this country faces to join these talks with an open mind. We all need to put our country’s future first.

That means either pursuing legislative measures or a vote of no confidence in a Boris Johnson government which is showing every intention of driving this country off the edge of a cliff, and replacing it with a caretaker government which is committed to giving the people the right to decide on the Brexit deal.

I am prepared to support Jeremy Corbyn as leader of this caretaker government, as should any MP who wants to stop a no-deal Brexit. But if he cannot gain the support of a sufficient number of colleagues across parliament, I hope he will be prepared to back another MP from his party, or another, who can. I will ask him again to make his position clear in our discussions next week.

I will also continue to make the case that we need a people’s vote before a general election, as the only certain way of ensuring that the British people have the final say on Brexit.

Corbyn has said that, as leader of the opposition, he should be the person to form government in the event of Boris Johnson losing a vote of no confidence. Corbyn has said that in those circumstances he would form “a strictly time-limited temporary government” which would aim to negotiate an extension to article 50 and then call a general election.

Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas Photograph: Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock

From Sky’s Ireland correspondent, Stephen Murphy


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