- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson still has the Trump administration in his corner, Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday in London, even as much of the U.K. political establishment — including Mr. Johnson’s own brother — was balking at the prime minister’s blueprint for taking Britain out of the European Union.

Mr. Pence said President Trump is eager to negotiate a bilateral trade deal if and when the U.K. strikes a final Brexit deal, brushing aside the pothole-riddled road ahead for Mr. Johnson. The latest indignity: Jo Johnson, the prime minister’s brother and a Conservative MP representing the southeast London district of Orpington, said he was quitting the Cabinet and would not seek re-election because he couldn’t back his brother’s Brexit plan.

But President Trump is a major fan of Mr. Johnson, and Vice President Pence was in London to meet with the new prime minister and convey Washington’s continued support for his Brexit plan.

“The minute the U.K. is out, America is in,” Mr. Pence said to heavy applause at the Lord Mayor’s International Trade Dinner.

Mr. Johnson said it all sounds “fantastic,” relishing a dose of praise amid the headlines about his brother’s defection, the loss of his parliamentary majority, and the soaring public frustration with the stalemated Brexit debate.



Jo Johnson, the prime minister’s younger brother and a minister in the Conservative government, voted to remain in the European Union in 2016 despite his brother co-leading the “Leave” campaign. He’d recently re-entered government after resigning last year to protest former Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, re-joining Parliament this summer after his brother was elected.

“In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest — it’s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister,” Jo Johnson tweeted.

His older brother’s “do or die” determination to leave the EU by the end of October has faced tremendous headwinds, including major defections from his conservative majority, amid fears a “no-deal Brexit” could cause major economic, diplomatic and financial disruptions.

British lawmakers handed Mr. Johnson a major defeat Wednesday, advancing a bill that would block a no-deal Brexit that Mr. Johnson says he wants to carry out by the Oct. 31 deadline if he can’t strike a new, better deal with the EU.

The specter of Brexit loomed over Mr. Pence’s sweep through Europe, which also included stops in Poland, Ireland and Iceland.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, told Mr. Pence this week that a Ireland-Northern Ireland border, complete with full inspections and other hurdles to travel and trade, would be “deeply disruptive” and could undercut the deal that ended decades of Catholic-Protestant violence on the island.

Mr. Varadkar wants American help in addressing the threat of a “hard border,” though Trump officials haven’t signaled they’ll pump the brakes on trade over the matter.

Mr. Pence urged Irish officials to “negotiate in good faith” with Mr. Johnson on a deal that “honors the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, but at the same time avoids any unnecessary disruption of commerce.”

Mr. Johnson said on Thursday he is already considering which products the U.K. can send to the U.S. in a new bilateral free-trade accord, singling out shower trays and British lamb, beef and haggis.

“We think we could free up the U.S. market,” Mr. Johnson said. “I know that you guys are pretty tough negotiators, so we’re going to work very hard to make sure that that free-trade deal is one that works for all sides.”

He said the U.K.’s prized National Health Service would be walled off from trade negotiations, although Mr. Trump has suggested U.S. health firms would seek access to the post-Brexit British market.

The prime minister also said the British have no interest in any “chlorinated chicken” — a reference to the nickname he gave his political foe, Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, for resisting a new election. It also refers to claims by Brexit opponents that the U.K. would have to accept weaker food safety standards as part of any U.S. trade deal.

“We have a gigantic chlorinated chicken of our own, here, on the opposition benches,” Mr. Johnson told Mr. Pence.

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