Boris Johnson Denies Lying to Queen Over Suspension: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) — Boris Johnson won some respite from a series of setbacks when a court ruled on Thursday morning that a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t violate the peace accord in Northern Ireland. It came after Scottish judges said his suspension of Parliament was unlawful and he was accused of lying to the Queen, a charge he denied.

The prime minister is trying to keep his Brexit government on track with a relentless focus on domestic issues ahead of a general election expected in the fall. His government was also forced to reveal the full scale of the damage a no-deal Brexit could cause to the U.K.

Key Developments:

  • Government published no-deal Brexit planning documents late Wednesday ahead of Parliament-imposed deadline: U.K. Warns of Protests, Chaotic Border Scenes in No-Deal Brexit
  • A Belfast court ruled that a no-deal Brexit would not break the Good Friday Peace accords
  • Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the government is working to mitigate no-deal Brexit risks
  • Former Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd wants Tory rebels readmitted before she considers rejoining Conservative Party

Johnson ‘Hopeful’ of Deal With EU (11:20 a.m.)

In his TV interview, Boris Johnson said he’s “very hopeful” of securing a deal with his European counterparts at an Oct. 17-18 summit in Brussels and that he’s “working very hard” to secure one.

“We can see the rough area of landing space of how you could do it,” Johnson said. “It will be tough, it will be hard, but I think we can get there.”

Crucially, Johnson said, if the U.K. can’t secure a deal, then “we will be ready to come out on Oct. 31, deal or no deal.”

Johnson wins in Belfast Court (11:15 a.m.)

A Northern Irish court ruled that a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t violate the Good Friday peace accord, handing Johnson a legal victory in one of a string of cases related to his plans to leave the European Union.

Judge Bernard McCloskey issued a ruling Thursday in Belfast. The case is set to be immediately appealed to a higher court in Northern Ireland before moving to the U.K. Supreme Court next week.

Johnson Denies Lying to Queen (11:10 a.m.)

Boris Johnson said he “absolutely” didn’t lie to the Queen when he asked her to suspend or prorogue Parliament, because the government needs a new session to put forward its agenda.

“There’s a huge number of things that we want to get on with and do,” Johnson said in pooled television interview. “We need a Queen’s speech, we need to get on with these.”

Commenting on the release of the Operation Yellowhammer document setting out projected outcomes of a no-deal Brexit, he stressed it’s “a worst-case scenario.”

The document was “written by planners to make sure that we do everything we need to do to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “If we have to come out on Oct. 31 with no deal, we will be ready. The ports will be ready and the farming communities will be ready.”

EU Parliament Open to N. Ireland-Only Backstop (10:30 a.m.)

The European Parliament has signaled the European Union’s willingness to change the contentious Irish border backstop in the Brexit deal to make it apply solely to Northern Ireland rather than the whole U.K.

According to the text of a resolution that EU lawmakers will vote on next week seen by Bloomberg, the parliament “expresses its readiness to revert to a Northern Ireland-only backstop but stresses that it will not give consent to a withdrawal agreement without a backstop.”

While the parliament doesn’t have any formal role in the negotiations with the U.K., it does have a full veto over the final deal. In the resolution, it says it won’t hold a vote until after the U.K. Parliament has approved the agreement.

The EU has, in recent days, signaled that British negotiators seem to be moving toward accepting a Northern Ireland-only backstop. This would keep the province aligned to the EU’s customs union and single-market rules to prevent a hard border with the Irish Republic. In the current deal, rejected three times by British MPs, the whole U.K. would remain in a customs union.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday denied he was ready to accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop, saying it wouldn’t work for the U.K.

Rudd Wants All 21 Tory Rebels Readmitted (8:50 a.m.)

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who quit Johnson’s government and the Parliamentary Conservative Party at the weekend, said she would wait to see how the 21 Tory MPs expelled from the party last week are treated before deciding if she would rejoin.

Rudd was responding to reports that some of the rebels have been offered a way back into the party. She said she’d been struck at the effective organization of the group of MPs, who were expelled for voting for legislation to block a no-deal Brexit, and said they should all be allowed back.

“The group needs to be considered as a whole to be brought back,’’ she told BBC Radio. “I will wait and see on what terms other people choose to stay out.’’

Rudd described the expulsion of the lawmakers as an “act of political vandalism” in her resignation letter and said on Thursday that their vote against the government was no more “egregious” than the repeated votes of hard-line Brexiteers against Theresa May’s Brexit agreement.

Wallace: Yellowhammer is a ‘Living Document’ (8:20 a.m.)

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the government is working to mitigate the risks exposed in the Yellowhammer planning document released on Wednesday, and will publish an updated version showing progress soon.

“We’re spending the money on doing lots of things to mitigate those assumptions,” Wallace told BBC Radio 4. “We should consider it as ‘this is what would happen if we didn’t do anything about it.”’

Describing it as a “living document,” he said there would be further versions. “Our job as a government is to say to people what could happen and then say what we’re doing about it,’’ he said.

Labour: Yellowhammer Shows ‘Catastrophe’ for U.K. (Earlier)

Andy McDonald, transport spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said the government’s Yellowhammer planning documents show that a no-deal split from the EU would be “a catastrophe for our country.’’

“This is more like emergency planning for a war or a natural disaster,’’ McDonald told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday. Boris Johnson is “driving the ship onto the rocks,’’ he said, “and he’ll have a lifeboat but working people will not.’’

People on low incomes would be “disproportionately affected’’ by higher food and fuel prices after a no-deal Brexit, the government warned in the paper.

Grieve: Court Will Tell More on Parliament Suspension (Earlier)

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who led Parliament’s efforts to force the government to publish its decision-making process behind Boris Johnson‘s suspension of Parliament, expects more details to be revealed when the Court of Session in Scotland publishes its full judgment on Friday.

The court ruled on Wednesday that Johnson had acted unlawfully when he advised the Queen to prorogue Parliament.

No-Deal Brexit minister Michael Gove refused to release documents relating to the decision on Wednesday evening. Publishing communications between Johnson’s advisers would be “unreasonable and disproportionate,’’ he said in a letter to Grieve.

“The government’s reasons for proroguing Parliament have turned out to be entirely bogus,’’ Grieve told BBC Radio 4. “It’s very serious when a government comes out and deliberately sets out to mislead the public about its motives.’’

Earlier:

U.K. Warns of Protests, Chaotic Border Scenes in No-Deal BrexitBrexit Is Making English Civil War Comparisons Hard to DismissU.K.’s Leadsom to Meet Businesses to Assess Brexit PreparednessYellowhammer Details Reveal Worst-Case Scenario: Brexit Bulletin