Three former British Prime Ministers and various Irish government ministers have warned incoming PM Boris Johnson not to continue down the no-deal Brexit path promised by his rhetoric.
If not, they say, he will face consequences ranging from ‘severe’ to catastrophic’.
Earlier today, Boris Johnson was elected the new leader the Conservative Party, defeating Jeremy Hunt in the leadership contest by a margin of 2:1.
Just last Sunday, Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, made it clear that a change in British prime minister would not shift the fundamental “realities” of Brexit.
Mr Coveney told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that there is no chance of the EU scrapping or diluting the Irish backstop.
“If the approach of the new British prime minister is that they’re going to tear up the withdrawal agreement, I think we’re in trouble. I think we’re all in trouble, quite frankly,” he said.
“That’s like saying, ‘Either give me what I want or I’m going to burn the house down for everybody’.”
We look forward to working constructively w/ PM @BorisJohnson when he takes office, to facilitate the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and achieve an orderly #Brexit. We are ready also to rework the agreed Declaration on a new partnership in line with #EUCO guidelines.
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) July 23, 2019
Gordon Brown, meanwhile, said Mr Johnson faces the prospect of being the first-ever Prime Minister for England – as opposed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Former Prime Minister Sir John Major said Mr Johnson should govern as a Prime Minister for all – and not just the fanatical Brexit ultras or lose any and all legitimacy.
Former Tory Prime Minister John Major, who was in Downing Street between 1990 and 1997 and paved the way for the peace process and Good Friday Agreement, said “no-one born this century voted for Brexit”.
In a statement, he said: “It is a timely moment to note that whoever becomes our prime minister this week, he will be far more than Leader of the Conservative party.
“As for every prime minister, he must act for our nation as a whole – not just one part of it. He must also remember that no-one born this century voted for Brexit – let alone a “no-deal” Brexit.
“Words and actions have consequences, and never more so than when they are those of the prime minister.
“As the evidence mounts of the probable economic and social damage of a ‘no-deal” Brexit’ – and of the rising opposition to it – the new prime minister must choose whether to be the spokesman for an ultra-Brexit faction, or the servant of the nation he leads.
“He cannot be both, and the choice he makes will define his premiership from the moment of its birth.
“As the most powerful politician in the four nations of our United Kingdom, any prime minister has the right to expect support but – if he acts as the spokesman for one hard-line faction only – he cannot complain if he faces uncompromising opposition from those who believe they have had their views ignored.
“I hope our new leader understands this and is fully prepared for the enormous task before him.”
Former Premier Gordon Brown, in Number 10 from 2007 to 2010, warned that Boris Johnson could be remembered as “the first Prime Minister of England” only.
He also warned that a hard exit from the European Union would hurt millions already affected by nine years of Tory austerity policies.
Speaking at a Hope Not Hate and Institute for Public Policy Research event in London, Mr Brown warned the former foreign secretary not to push the economy “off a cliff”:
“A No Deal Brexit also threatens a United Kingdom that even now seems united in name only.
“Boris Johnson has no workable answer to the Northern Ireland border problem and his opposition to the fundamental linchpins of Scotland’s relationship with Britain is well known,” he said.
He said Britain’s new Prime Minister will have been selected by a “smaller electorate than who voted for Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing.”
“Even before he becomes PM, Boris Johnson is already out of step with the views of the British people and perhaps more than 20 million voters will oppose a no-deal Brexit.
“Those vying to be Prime Minister have been cocooned in a Tory leadership contest giving the same ‘No Deal’ speeches to the same small crowds but out in the country the British people are right to be concerned.”
Mr Blair, writing in The Times and speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said the 2016 referendum gave the Government of the day a mandate for Brexit, but not for crashing out with no-deal.
“Crashing out without public endorsement would be a gargantuan risk.
“No-one knows with certainty the impact of no-deal for the simple reason that no developed nation has ever left overnight its preferential trading arrangements in this manner.
“It could be merely very difficult – or it could be catastrophic,” said Mr Blair who stood down as PM in 2007 after ten years.