September 26, 2019 / 11:05 AM / a month ago

PM Johnson defends use of Brexit 'surrender act'

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street in London, Britain, September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday defended his decision to use the term “surrender act” when speaking about a new law that forces him to seek a Brexit delay if he fails to secure a deal to leave the European Union.

At a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers on Thursday, Johnson won support for his argument that the law undermined his negotiating position in Brussels and that he was within his rights to describe is as a “surrender act”.

Johnson was criticised by opposition lawmakers and some in his own Conservative Party for using such language on Wednesday, with some saying it not only deepened divisions but also could incite violence against those working in parliament.

A Conservative lawmaker said Johnson told the committee: “It IS a surrender act,” arguing that it hurt Britain’s negotiating stance with the EU. But the prime minister added that he took threats to lawmakers very seriously.

The lawmaker also quoted Johnson as saying that he could still secure an agreement to leave the EU by Oct. 31, but that negotiations with Ireland on customs were “difficult”.

Johnson hails what he describes as progress in the Brexit talks, but EU officials say Britain has yet to come up with “legal and operational” proposals to solve the thorniest issue of customs arrangements for the new border between British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison/Guy Faulconbridge

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