‘Incredible Hulk’ PM Boris Johnson vows to break free from Europe
Boris Johnson goes into his first Brexit talks with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today after claiming he will break the UK out of the European Union’s “manacles” like the Incredible Hulk.
The tough rhetoric came amid reports that the Prime Minister is preparing to prorogue Parliament a second time in order to get around legislation forcing him to delay Brexit.
In strident comments made before his meeting with Mr Juncker in Luxembourg, Mr Johnson repeated his commitment to leave the EU on 31 October. But he said he was “very confident” that it would be with a Brexit deal, as one of his Cabinet ministers stepped back from the threat of a no-deal departure.
Referring to the comic book hero in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson said: “[Bruce] Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them...
“Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done.”
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay backed up the Prime Minister’s rhetoric, telling Sky’s Ridge on Sunday programme: “The Hulk was a winner and was extremely popular and I’d rather be backing a character and a leader who is The Hulk rather than one who is on the chicken run as Jeremy Corbyn is.”
However, the Government appeared to be softening its stance at the same time. The Prime Minister struck a confident tone on reaching a Brexit deal, saying he thinks “we will get there” and that a “huge amount of progress is being made”.
He said: “I will be talking to Jean-Claude [Juncker] about how we’re going to do it. I’m very confident.”
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said Mr Johnson’s comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?”
Home Secretary Priti Patel also said the UK has to leave the EU with a deal at the end of next month. She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We have to leave and we have to leave with a deal on 31 October, and there’s no point right now trying to prejudge the discussions that are taking place.”
Mr Barclay attempted to create leeway for a deal to be reached, suggesting the post-Brexit transition phase that is due to keep the UK within EU rules until December 2020 could run until “one or two years later by mutual agreement”.
An extension to the transition would allow difficult aspects of the UK’s trade relationship with the EU to be negotiated after Brexit.
However, it could mean that British fishermen remain under EU Common Fisheries Policy rules longer than the industry demands.
Meanwhile it was reported that Mr Johnson is considering a “secret” plan to order a second suspension of Parliament when MPs return to the Commons on 14 October, in an attempt to avoid having to delay Brexit and escape legislation blocking no-deal.
The plan, allegedly discussed by the Prime Minister’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, at a meeting of Downing Street aides on Friday, could result in Parliament being closed until 6 November, after the UK’s Brexit deadline.
It comes as the legal campaigner behind court cases seeking to strike down the prorogation of Parliament and force a Brexit delay, Jolyon Maugham QC, warned there was a “flaw” in legislation passed by MPs to block no-deal.
In a blog post, Mr Maugham warned that, while the terms of the legislation would be satisfied if a Withdrawal Agreement was put before Parliament and passed, a no-deal Brexit would still be possible unless a second Bill implementing that agreement was also voted through.
Mr Maugham urged MPs not to approve any Withdrawal Agreement before the 19 October trigger date for a delay to Brexit, to ensure that the loophole is closed.
When Mr Johnson and Mr Juncker meet for lunch today, the PM will be accompanied by Mr Barclay and Number 10’s Brexit sherpa David Frost. They will also meet the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, during the Luxembourg visit.
However, Downing Street has cautioned that today’s meetings will not be a “big breakthrough” moment in the Government’s efforts to strike a deal with Brussels.
Ahead of the trip, Mr Johnson added: “Don’t be fooled by Corbyn and the ringleaders. On the one hand, they say I don’t want a deal.
“On the other, they want to force me to extend. Both are wrong. I am straining to get a deal, but I will also end the uncertainty and take us out on October 31.”
His remarks came as research by Opinium suggested the Conservatives had increased their poll lead to 12 points over Labour.
The survey put the Tories on 37 per cent, with Labour on 25 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 16 per cent and the Brexit Party on 13 per cent.
A separate poll by ComRes and the Sunday Express suggested just one in 10 people thinks Parliament “works well and is fit for the 21st century”.