British lawmaker Boris Johnson, a contender to take over for outgoing prime minister Theresa May, said Friday that the country must prepare to leave the European Union without a deal in order to establish a strong negotiating position vis-à-vis Brussels.
“We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal,” Johnson told an economic conference in Switzerland, according to Reuters. “The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no deal.”
Johnson’s comments come hours after May announced she will step down on June 7, recognizing that her Conservative party needs a new leader to guide the country through the final stages of its departure from the EU. May delivered an emotional resignation speech from the steps of No. 10 Downing Street Friday morning in which she called on her eventual successor to ensure that the will of the British people is ultimately exercised.
“I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that,” she said. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.”
In a series of votes over the last six months, Conservative and Labour M.P.’s alike consistently rejected the Brexit deal May painstakingly negotiated with Brussels as a perversion of the voters’ will that left the country entangled with the EU.
May’s Conservative party suffered the consequences of her failure to secure the country’s departure from the EU last month, losing 1,300 local seats in a historically bad electoral showing.
Johnson, a former foreign secretary who resigned from May’s cabinet earlier this year out of opposition to her deference toward Brussels, is now positioning himself to succeed her with support from the pro-Brexit wing of the Conservative party. According to a YouGov poll, 77 percent of Tories think Johnson is likable and 70 percent believe he could win a general election.