UK: Boris Johnson’s visit to Wales seeks to reassure on Brexit

Pound plummets as businesses warn no amount of preparation can eliminate economic damage if UK crashes out of the EU.

Boris Johnson
No new negotiations are planned between Britain and the EU over Brexit [Jeff J Mitchell via Reuters]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Wales as part of a national tour intended to reassure Britons that his hard-Brexit push will not hurt the economy and rip apart the United Kingdom.

The pound has fallen sharply in recent days as businesses warn no amount of preparation can eliminate the economic damage if Britain crashes out of the European Union without agreement on the terms. The currency fell early Tuesday to $1.2120, its lowest since March 2017.

Johnson faced a tough reception from farmers – a group central to the Welsh economy – who fear economic havoc if Britain leaves the EU without a divorce deal.

They say millions of sheep might have to be slaughtered if tariffs are slapped on lamb exports to the EU.

Johnson’s office argues that leaving the 28-nation bloc and its rules-bound Common Agricultural Policy will be “a historic opportunity to introduce new schemes to support farming” and will open up new markets for UK agricultural exports.

The trip follows a visit on Monday to Scotland, where Johnson was booed by protesters and warned by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that his vow to take Britain out of the EU on October 31, with or without a deal, was “dangerous”.

Johnson, who took office last week, also plans to visit Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK to share a land border with the EU.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits in Scotland
Boris Johnson visited Scotland [Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via Reuters]

The status of that currently invisible frontier with the Republic of Ireland has become the main stumbling block to a Brexit deal.

Johnson became prime minister last week after winning a Conservative Party leadership contest by promising the strongly pro-Brexit party membership the UK will leave the EU on the scheduled date of October 31, with or without a divorce deal.

The EU struck a withdrawal agreement with Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, but it was rejected three times by Britain’s parliament.

Johnson is insisting the bloc make major changes to May’s deal, including scrapping an insurance policy for the Irish border that has been rejected by UK legislators.

The EU insists it will not reopen the 585-page withdrawal agreement it spent two years negotiating with May’s government.

Johnson’s government has been accused of sending mixed messages on Brexit that have unsettled markets.

Michael Gove, who heads a new Brexit delivery committee in Cabinet, has said the government is “operating on the assumption” the UK will leave without a deal.

But Johnson – who just weeks ago put the odds of leaving without a divorce agreement at a million to one – said on Monday he was “very confident” of getting a new deal.

Currently, there are no new negotiations planned between Britain and the bloc.

Source: News Agencies