Dominic Cummings: do not be surprised by Brexit anger
Johnson adviser rejects suggestion government would back ‘soft Brexit’ to make October 31st deadline
British prime minister Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser has said British politicians should not be surprised by the mounting anger over Brexit and said the atmosphere will get ever more toxic unless the result of the referendum is delivered.
Dominic Cummings, adviser to the prime minister and mastermind of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU, said lawmakers seeking to stop Brexit should not be surprised by the reception they receive around the country.
“If you are a bunch of politicians and you say that we swear we are going to respect the result of a democratic vote and after you lose you say ‘we don’t want to respect that vote’. What do you expect will happen?” Cummings said at a book launch on Thursday night. “I find it very odd that these characters are complaining that people are unhappy about their behaviour now.”
Parliament, locked in a three-year battle over how, if or when the country should leave the EU, reached boiling point on Wednesday when Johnson and his opponents spent hours hurling allegations of betrayal and deceit across the chamber of the House of Commons.
Opposition lawmakers accused Johnson of stoking hatred and cast him as a cheating dictator. One called him a liar. Johnson dismissed death threats against female law-makers as “humbug” and accused his opponents of “surrender” to European leaders.
Cummings also rejected a suggestion that the government would back a “soft Brexit” – one that keeps Britain more closely aligned to EU rules – in order to get a deal by Johnson’s October deadline.
Despite the uncertainty and turmoil, Cummings said they were not under any pressure and the situation was far less difficult than winning the 2016 referendum. “This is a walk in the park compared to that. All the Vote Leave team, we are enjoying this, we are going to win, we are going to leave, don’t worry,” he said.
Cummings has been cast by allies as a ruthless strategist who cares little for the conventions of traditional British politics and by enemies as an anarchist. He was found to be in contempt of parliament earlier this year for failing to appear before lawmakers investigating “fake news” and the referendum. He said he had offered to appear and give evidence.
Britain’s leading bishops said on Friday this behaviour must stop. The Church of England bishops called for respect on all sides of the Brexit argument, saying the language being used in the increasingly vitriolic debate was divisive and abusive. “We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen,” the bishops said. “In the last few days, the use of language, both in debates and outside Parliament, has been unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, former prime minister John Major, who has condemned Johnson’s pugilistic approach to politics, has warned on that the government may still try to use “political chicanery” to bypass the order for a delay. Major has warned that 10 Downing Street’s current incumbent could seek to subvert the Hilary Benn act, which requires the prime minister to seek an extension to the Brexit withdrawal date beyond October 31st if a withdrawal agreement has not been ratified by then. In a speech to the the Centre for European Reform, Major said he feared Boris Johnson could try – via the privy council – to bypass the Benn Act by suspending it until after October 31st.
– Reuters, Guardian