Boris Johnson Warns May to `Get on With It' and Deliver Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson set Theresa May a list of Brexit demands, saying she must “get on with” taking the U.K. out of the European Union’s trading rules as fast as possible.

In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg in Buenos Aires, Johnson said May is responsible for ensuring the U.K. takes back control over its tariff regime, and gains the power to break away from EU regulations if it chooses to. If the final Brexit deal doesn’t deliver these conditions, it will fail to give the public the clean break from the bloc that they voted for, he suggested.

Johnson, who’s been talked about as a candidate to replace May, declined to say whether he’d resign if she doesn’t meet his conditions.

“The prime minister is the custodian of the plan, which is to come out of the customs union, out of the single market and to get on with it, to get on with that project with all convenient speed,” Johnson told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. “Outward, free-trading countries -- what they want to hear from us is that we are getting on with it with confidence and brio and zap and dynamism.”

Johnson’s comments are his strongest since May’s team agreed last week on a controversial compromise that could keep the U.K. tied to EU trade rules for years after the divorce. The proposal got a frosty reception from Brussels and prompted Jacob Rees-Mogg, who commands enough Conservative lawmakers to engineer a leadership challenge, to say he was losing faith in May.

The prime minister is at a crunch point in the Brexit process with pressure from all sides to make a clear decision on what the U.K. wants, stop delaying, and deliver the divorce.

Irish Compromise

The customs backstop proposal is intended to resolve the thorny question of how to avoid checks on goods crossing the Irish border -- something both sides have committed to as a condition of the final divorce deal to safeguard peace on the island of Ireland. But Brexit supporters fear the plan will tie Britain too closely to EU rules, denying them the chance to break away and strike free-trade deals with other countries around the world.

Johnson was clear that he doesn’t want Britain to operate EU tariffs for a moment longer than necessary -- and he called for more clarity on how long this backstop plan would last. “It’s important for people to have a sense of when it’s going to happen and to be able to do it as fast as is reasonably possible,” he said.

Asked if he would be prepared to quit the Cabinet if May’s final Brexit deal binds Britain too tightly to European regulations, Johnson declined to answer directly.

But he set out exactly what he wants to see: “It means we take back control of our tariff schedules, we set our own tariffs, we run our own commercial policy,” Johnson said. “That’s very, very important. Otherwise, you’re not taking control of your laws, you’re not taking back control of your borders.”

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