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It is perfectly realistic to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, says Johnson

It is perfectly realistic to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, says Johnson

 


Boris Johnson, favorite in the Conservative Party leadership race, said it was “perfectly realistic” to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement to allow Britain to leave the European Union in October.

In his first broadcast interview about the competition, he agreed to take part in a BBC debate – but suggested he would miss the one hosted by Channel 4 – amid accusations he was hiding from the media.

And he denied using cocaine since a “single inconclusive event” more than 30 years ago.

The former foreign secretary told BBC Radio 4's World At One he was committed to leaving the EU by October 31 and said controversial backstop issues Irish could be resolved by moving controls away from the border.

“There is a clear way to disaggregate the now defunct Withdrawal Agreement – ​​the good elements can be removed. »

Regarding televised debates, he said it was “important that we have a reasonable debate between adults”.

“My own observation is that, in the past, when there were a lot of candidates, it could be a little cacophonous, and I think the public has had a lot of blue-on-blue action, frankly, over the last three years . years.”

Conservative leadership race scheduleConservative leadership race schedule

(PA Charts)

This came after he was criticized for his lack of media appearances, with his rival Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accusing him of hiding from the media and preventing wider debate within the Conservative party.

Mr Hunt told the BBC: “We can only have this debate if our frontrunner in this campaign is a bit braver in terms of communicating with the media and actually participating in the debates. Participate in televised debates.

Mr Johnson said the “fundamental flaw” in the current withdrawal agreement is the Irish backstop and claimed a solution could be found.

“In the meantime, it is absolutely crucial to prepare for a no-deal and I do not share the deep pessimism of some people about the consequences of a no-deal,” he said.

I don't know Zaghari-Ratcliffe I don't know Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Boris Johnson defended his record as foreign secretary, including his handling of the case of British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (family handout/PA)

“That's not to say that I don't think there will be some difficulties that need to be resolved and we need to make sure we can resolve them.”

When asked how he would solve the border problem, he replied: “These problems can easily be solved, as I think the (European) Commission has said, in the past with maximum facilitation techniques and , after all, at present you already have goods conforming to different standards.

Mr Johnson also defended his record as foreign secretary, including his handling of the case of British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was imprisoned in Iran.

He said: “If you point the finger at me or anyone else who tried as I did to get Nazanin out, then I think you are unintentionally exonerating the people who are really responsible, namely the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. »

Asked if he had failed to do his homework by not reading his brief, he referred to his time as Mayor of London, saying: “Look at the record of what we delivered to London. »

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced he had withdrawn from the Tory leadership race as candidates looked for a way to defeat favorite Mr Johnson.

Mr Hancock, who received 20 votes in the first round of voting on Thursday, said the party was looking for a candidate for the “unique circumstances that currently exist”.

He tweeted: “I have decided to withdraw from the race to become the next leader of the Conservative Party.

“I will now look for the best way to advance the values ​​we fought for. »

Candidates must obtain 33 votes in the second round of voting on Tuesday to continue the competition.

Mr Johnson was the clear winner in the first round with 114 votes, 71 votes ahead of his closest rival, Jeremy Hunt.

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