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Boris Johnson says he won't resign to avoid delaying Brexit as Tory conference kicks off

Speaking to the BBC, Johnson also defended his recent parliamentary language.

conservative-party-conference Boris Johnson prepares to appear on the BBC's Andrew Marr this morning. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has said he would not resign to avoid having to delay Brexit beyond the end of October.

Johnson has continually vowed to take Britain out of the EU by 31 October, despite parliament passing the Benn Act which requires him to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline if MPs fail to approve a deal. 

Speaking on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show this morning, Johnson, who has previously said he’d rather be “dead in a ditch” than request a delay, said:

“No, I have undertaken to lead the party and my country at a difficult time and I am going to continue to do that. I believe it is my responsibility to do that.”

Johnson this morning also defended his use of language in Parliament and denied any wrongdoing in relation to his links with American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri. 

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was criticised in Parliament for saying that the best way to “honour the memory” of murdered MP Jo Cox would be “to get Brexit done”. 

Johnson made the claim after a number of opposition MPs implored him to moderate his language so as not to ‘whip up’ threats and intimidation against members.

Labour MP Cox was murdered by a far-right extremist a week before the Brexit vote in 2016. She had been a remain supporter.

Johnson also used the terms ‘Surrender Act’ and ‘Capitulation Act’ when referring to the Benn Act, which seeks to force the government to seek a Brexit extension to avoid a no-deal.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of the four-day Tory Party conference in Manchester today, Johnson defended his use of language. 

He said: “I want to make a very important distinction between that issue of threats and abuse directed at MPs which is totally unacceptable and we have to prevent and what I think is the legitimate use of old tried and trusted metaphors to describe certain parliamentary acts or indeed events in politics. 

“If you cannot use a metaphor like surrender to describe the ‘Surrender Act’ then in my view you are impoverishing the language and diminishing parliamentary debate,” he said.

In the Commons on Wednesday, Tracy Brabin, who succeeded Cox in her former constituency asked Johnson to be more careful in his use of language.

“As the woman who has taken over a seat that was left by our dear friend Jo Cox, can I ask him, in all honesty, as a human being, please, please. Will he, going forward, moderate his language so that we will all feel secure when we’re going about our jobs?”

In response, Johnson said that the act he refers to “greatly enfeebles the government’s ability to negotiate” and when taken to task on his use of language by MP Paula Sherriff, whose complaints he later dismissed as “humbug”. 

Challenged by Marr on the issue, Johnson this morning said that he thought she was talking about the Benn Act and that he had committed a “total misunderstanding”.

“That was wrong, that was not my intention,” he says, adding he is “sorry for the misunderstanding”.

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding Johnson and American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri has grown, with The Sunday Times reporting Arcuri told friends she had an affair with him while he was mayor of London.

On Friday, the Prime Minister was referred to the police complaints body to assess whether he should face a criminal investigation over his links with the former model.

The Sunday Times reported Arcuri was given £126,000 in public money and privileged access to three foreign trade missions led by Mr Johnson while he was mayor.

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Johnson has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to his links with Ms Arcuri.

Appearing on the BBC this morning, Johnson said of the matter: “There was no interest to declare.”

‘Credible proposal’

With Britain due to leave the EU on the 31 October, a withdrawal agreement seems increasingly unlikely. 

Johnson had previously said that despite parliament passing legislation to block a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, he would seek to leave anyway on that date even if no agreement had been reached with the EU. 

Speaking today, Johnson said he believes a deal can still be struck. 

“I do think there is a good chance and we’re working incredibly hard…we’ll continue to work tomorrow and in the course of the next few days right up until October 13th to see if we can get this thing over the line,” Johnson said. 

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney told the Sunday Independent today that Johnson’s claim that he wants a deal will be tested this week and that a “credible proposal” must be put forward “if he is serious about getting a deal”. 

“If there not a serious effort on the British side to put forward a proposal that’s credible, then I think we’re into a very difficult space,” Coveney said. 

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