Monday, October 21, 2019 | ePaper
Johnson faces fresh Tory rebellion over prospect of no-deal Brexit
AP, London :
Boris Johnson was reportedly warned about the 'grave' risk of the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a fresh rebellion in his cabinet, with a group of ministers poised to resign due to concerns that he is leading the country towards a no-deal Brexit.
The Times newspaper has reported that Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Health Minister Matt Hancock and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox are all on a "resignation watch list".
An unnamed cabinet minister cited by the newspaper said that a "very large number" of Conservative members of parliament will quit if it comes to a no-deal Brexit.
The Times said that ministers had warned Mr Johnson in a cabinet meeting about the "grave" risk of the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland and raised concerns about Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson's top adviser. "Cabinet will set the strategy, not unelected officials. If this is an attempt to do that then it will fail", the report quoted another cabinet minister as saying.
The newspaper has also reported that the European Union is ready to make a "major concession" on a Brexit deal by offering a mechanism for the Northern Ireland assembly to leave a new backstop after a number of years, The new idea, as reported by the Times, would be a modified version of the consent principle.
Citing diplomatic sources close to the talks, the Times said European governments were prepared to "concede a unilateral revocation of the withdrawal treaty by Stormont after a period of time. The date of 2025 has been mooted, as long as both communities agree to it. A European source was quoted by the Times as saying: "A landing zone on consent could be a double majority within Stormont, to leave, not to continue with the arrangements after X years."
The media reports come as the European Union accused Britain of playing a "stupid blame game" over Brexit after a Downing Street source told Reuters a deal was essentially impossible because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made unacceptable demands. No 10 sources claimed Ms Merkel had told Mr Johnson that Britain could not leave the EU unless it was prepared to leave Northern Ireland behind in a permanent customs union. No 10 sources claimed Ms Merkel had told Mr Johnson that Britain could not leave the EU unless it was prepared to leave Northern Ireland behind in a permanent customs union.