If Boris goes, Brexit goes

Lord Michael Heseltine – TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Lord Michael Heseltine has said that ‘if Boris goes, Brexit goes’, as he urges the next Conservative Party leader to renew ties with Brussels.

The former Deputy Prime Minister said Boris Johnson’s departure will likely lead to a shake-up in relations with the European Unionas it was the key policy he nurtured.

He also warned that “extreme anti-Europeanism and right-wingism” would be a “suicide course” for the party.

His comments come after a turbulent week of walkouts by Mr Johnson’s top team, with dozens of MPs saying they could no longer serve under his leadership.

“I’m absolutely clear that we need a deputy Prime Minister to act in the interregnum before a new Prime Minister is chosen,” Lord Heseltine told Sky News.

“It’s quite obvious that Boris Johnson, if he was allowed to stay, is going to try to procure a range of policies that will bolster his position. So that’s unthinkable.

“The critical thing here is that Boris is associated with one major policy, and that is Brexit. I coined the phrase ‘if Boris goes, Brexit goes’.

“To me, the big and interesting dilemma is the way in which Keir Starmer has been wrong-footed in making these anti-European speeches, as he has, on the basis that he was going to fight Boris Johnson.

“Now, of course, the Tory party is going to have to find a new leader. My belief is that there will be a return to sanity towards our policies about Europe which will make Keir Starmer look, I think, rather foolish.”

Lord Heseltine said a new leader must be appointed very soon to prevent Mr Johnson “maneuvering and manipulating power in the dying days of his premiership.”

He said he didn’t think the next Prime Minister would try to take Britain back into the EU, but would seek to establish a “more positive relationship with Europe”.

If they do not, he said the Conservative Party risks losing seats to the Liberal Democrats, which wants to rejoin the EU.

Public opinion is that Brexit was a “disaster”, he said, adding: “Extreme anti-Europeanism and right-wingism is a suicide course for the Tory Party in the context of the economic circumstances we are facing.”

He said Boris Johnson had been “a disastrous Prime Minister in the conduct of the nation’s affairs” and has “trashed” the reputation of Britain and the Conservative Party.

“I think his colleagues should have acted more decisively and earlier,” he said.

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