Boris Johnson: Premiership will be the start of a golden age

4 min read

Boris Johnson has promised the “beginning of a new golden age”, as he made his first Commons statement as PM.

Speaking to MPs, Mr Johnson said his government would throw itself into Brexit negotiations with energy, while Michael Gove would lead on no-deal planning as a “top priority”.

He also said EU citizens living in the UK would have their rights protected.

But Downing Street was unable to confirm if there would be any new laws to underpin the commitment.

Tory MP Alberto Costa – who has campaigned for EU citizens’ rights after Brexit – welcomed Mr Johnson’s pledge, but said “the devil, as ever, is in the detail” and he would be “scrutinising how that guarantee comes forward”.

Replying to his statement in the Commons, Jeremy Corbyn said people “do not trust” the new PM to deliver on his promises.

And Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Mr Johnson to say it is “essential” her country has an alternative option to his Brexit plan.

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The statement came after the first meeting of Mr Johnson’s new cabinet, who he said had all committed to leaving the EU on or before 31 October, “no ifs, no buts”.

New secretaries of state include former leadership contender Sajid Javid as chancellor, and leading Brexiteers, with Dominic Raab as foreign secretary and Priti Patel as home secretary.

More junior ministers are expected to be announced later, with further reshuffling on Friday.

Mr Johnson has also held his first calls with other foreign leaders – including Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Australian PM Scott Morrison – and is due to speak to the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker later.

What did the PM say in his statement?
Much of Mr Johnson’s statement focused on his plans for Brexit.

Despite emphasising the importance of preparing for no deal, the new prime minister said he would “much prefer” to leave the EU with an agreement, saying he would work “flat out to make it happen”.

However, he told MPs the withdrawal agreement his predecessor, Theresa May, had negotiated with the EU was “unacceptable to this Parliament and to this country”.

That plan was voted down three times by MPs, with one of the controversial parts being the Northern Ireland backstop – a mechanism to avoid physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson has pledged to scrap this element of the plan, saying alternative arrangements to keep checks away from the border were “perfectly compatible” with the Good Friday Agreement – the peace agreement signed in 1998.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said eliminating the backstop from the withdrawal agreement was “unacceptable”, and after Mr Johnson’s “rather combative speech”, the bloc would have to “be ready for all scenarios”.

The EU Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, also underlined the EU’s position in a call with Mr Johnson, saying the withdrawal agreement negotiated between the bloc and Mrs May was “the best and only agreement possible” for Brexit.
Addressing MPs, Mr Johnson also said he would be looking into changing the UK’s immigration system, as per his leadership campaign pledge.

He wants to bring in a points-based system, similar to that used by Australia, and he said he would be asking the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review, “the first step in a radical rewriting” of the policy.

The PM’s spokesman later said that further details of Mr Johnson’s plans would be revealed “in the coming days and weeks”.

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Labour’s leader said the country was “deeply worried the new prime minister overestimates himself”.

Mr Corbyn added: “People do not trust this prime minister to make the right choices for the majority of the people in this country when he’s also promising tax giveaways to the richest of big business – his own party’s funders [a policy Mr Johnson proposed during the leadership campaign]”.

He also asked the PM to rule out “once and for all” the NHS would form part of a trade deal with the US, following comments made by President Donald Trump on his visit to the UK in June.

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