London, Sep 16 (IANS) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson put himself on a collision course with the European Union and Britain’s parliamentarians by saying in a major interview that he will ignore an instruction to delay Brexit if no deal is reached with Brussels.
Citing a US comic superhero, Johnson told the Mail, a daily newspaper, on Sunday that Britain will break out of its manacles “like the Incredible Hulk” if a Brexit deal can’t be struck by the end of next month, Xinhua news agency reported.
He said Britain would emulate Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered scientist who transforms into the Hulk character when he’s angry.
Johnson heads to Luxembourg Monday for a crucial meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier are also expected at the meeting.
In the interview, Johnson said if negotiations break down with Brussels, he will ignore last week’s House of Commons vote ordering him to delay Britain’s departure from the bloc until January 31, 2020.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” said Johnson.
The Mail reported there has been cautious optimism that negotiations with the EU are edging closer to a breakthrough.
Johnson claimed that there are real signs of movement in Berlin, Paris and Dublin on the issue of the backstop arrangement demanded by the EU to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
The refusal by Brussels to withdraw or water down the backstop arrangement was blamed for MPs three times rejecting a Brexit deal brokered by former prime minister Theresa May.
Johnson said in the interview that “I think that we will get there. I will be talking to Jean-Claude (Juncker) about how we’re going to do it. I’m very confident.”
Johnson said when he moved into 10 Downing Street, everybody was saying there could be absolutely no change to May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
“They (the EU) have already moved off that and there’s a very, very good conversation going on about how to address the issues of the Northern Irish border. A huge amount of progress is being made,” said Johnson, who succeeded May as British PM less than two months ago.
The Guardian reported Sunday that EU officials have dismissed Johnson’s upbeat account of negotiations.
The Mail on Sunday said strategists at No. 10 say they have devised a secret plan, known only to the prime minister and three key advisers, which they claim will allow them to ignore the order without breaking the “no-deal” law.
Media reports in London Sunday suggested an alliance of Remainer MPs is secretly plotting to stop Britain leaving the EU on October 31.
Reports claimed the alliance involves dozens of MPs from different parties, with former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who has publicly stated he wants Britain to stay in the EU, working behind the scenes with the alliance.
Johnson will on Tuesday face a legal challenge in the British Supreme Court over his decision to suspend the House of Commons.
Last week, Scotland’s highest court ruled the suspension of parliament was illegal. If the Supreme Court in London upholds that decision, Johnson could be forced to re-open the House of Commons.
Despite a roller-coaster ride for Johnson in recent days, the latest opinion poll in the Observer Sunday buoyed his Brexit strategy. The Opinium poll gave Johnson’s Conservatives a 37 per cent share, a 2 per cent increase compared with a week earlier.