UK PM Johnson uses first address to attack Corbyn over Iran links, urges EU to renegotiate Brexit deal

UK PM Johnson uses first address to attack Corbyn over Iran links, urges EU to renegotiate Brexit deal
A handout photograph taken and released by the UK Parliament on July 25, 2019 shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the Houses of Parliament in central London. (AFP)
Updated 25 July 2019

UK PM Johnson uses first address to attack Corbyn over Iran links, urges EU to renegotiate Brexit deal

UK PM Johnson uses first address to attack Corbyn over Iran links, urges EU to renegotiate Brexit deal
  • Johnson pledged to deliver Brexit and a “broader and bolder future”

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a swipe at opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and his links with Iranian "mullahs" and an Iranian-funded news channel during his first address to the House of Commons on Thursday.

Commenting on the growing tensions between the UK and the Tehran regime, Johnson said Corbyn was a "gentleman being paid by Press TV, who repeatedly sides with the mullahs of Tehran rather than our friends in the United States over what is happening in the Persian Gulf," using a phrase to refer to the Iranian seizure of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

“How incredible that we should even think about entrusting this gentleman with the stewardship of this country’s security,” he added.

His comments came after Iran seized the Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, something the UK government has called an act of "piracy."

During his campaign to become new Conservative leader and UK prime minister, Jeremy Hunt told Britain’s parliament on Monday that under international law, Iran had “no right” to board the ship.

Hunt also said on Monday said Britain wanted to establish a European-led maritime protection force in the Gulf but emphasized that London was not seeking a confrontation with Iran.

During his address, Johnson also urged the EU to rethink its refusal to renegotiate the Brexit deal, setting himself on a collision course with both the bloc and his own lawmakers over his vow to leave the EU by Oct. 31.

Johnson pledged to deliver Brexit and a “broader and bolder future.”

Rejecting the Brexit withdrawal agreement negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May, he insisted that while he wanted a deal, it could only happen if the EU budged, especially on an insurance policy for the Irish border that has been rejected by UK lawmakers.

“I hope that the EU will be equally ready and that they will rethink their current refusal to make any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement,” he said. “If they do not, we will, of course, have to leave — the UK — without an agreement.”

The EU repeated, for the umpteenth time, its insistence that it will not renegotiate the agreement on the terms of Britain’s departure that it struck with May.

“The European Union’s position remains unchanged. ... We will not reopen the withdrawal agreement,” said European Commission chief spokeswoman Mina Andreeva.

Without a divorce deal, Britain faces a chaotic Brexit that economists warn would disrupt trade by imposing tariffs and customs checks between Britain and the bloc. They say that could send the value of the pound plummeting and plunge the UK into recession.

Nonetheless Johnson, who won an election of Conservative members to replace May as party leader and prime minister, has vowed to complete Brexit and silence “the doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters” who believe it can’t be done.

But details remain scarce about how Johnson’s government would alleviate the economic shock if Britain crashed out of the EU’s huge free-trading bloc, ripping up decades of agreements regulating everything from aviation to drugs to telecommunications.

Johnson has less than 100 days to make good on his promise to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31. Yet Britain will struggle to get the bloc’s full attention during August, a sleepy holiday period in much of Europe, and the UK Parliament is due to start a six-week summer break on Friday.

He said he was ready to talk to EU leaders “whenever they are ready to do so,” and also promised to “turbo-charge” planning for a no-deal exit, with millions more allocated to a public information campaign for citizens and businesses.

Johnson also held the first meeting of his new Cabinet, which he has filled with loyal Brexit supporters. They include Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Treasury chief Sajid Javid, Home Secretary Priti Patel and House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg. Many of them worked with Johnson in the 2016 referendum campaign to leave the EU, as did much of Johnson’s new backroom staff.