Boris Johnson has told Sky News it is a “matter of deep regret” he failed to deliver his promise of Brexit by Halloween as he refused to rule out extending the transition period.
But the prime minister said he can see “no reason whatsoever” about why the UK should delay the implementation stage, during which Britain would stick to EU rules while a future trade deal is hammered out, beyond December 2020.
Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday, he added: “If you get the right parliament, anything’s possible.”
Mr Johnson added that he had an “oven ready” Brexit deal as he warned of “toxic, tedious trauma” under Labour.
The prime minister’s criticism – ahead of the launch of the General Election – came as Labour said it could campaign to leave the EU in a second referendum it has committed to hold, if it secures a good enough fresh deal from Brussels.
This is set to be seized upon by the Liberal Democrats, who are campaigning on the pledge to stop Brexit.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Johnson also:
- Accused parliament of wanting to keep the UK “locked in the EU” and “keep embarrassing the government with infinite delay”
- Dismissed calls for a second Scottish independence referendum while he is prime minister
- Refused to reveal the “naughtiest thing” he has ever done
Pressed over his broken Brexit pledge, Mr Johnson said he was “deeply, deeply disappointed”.
Apologising, the PM said: “It’s a matter of… it’s a matter of deep regret.”
Mr Johnson said he had “an oven ready deal, ready to go as soon as parliament comes back” after the 12 December poll.
He said: “What does Corbyn and the Labour Party want to do, they want go back to Brussels and have six months of a new negotiation, then have a referendum with all the toxic, tedious trauma that involves and then he wants to campaign against his own deal.”
Also appearing on Ridge, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has said Labour would make a decision over its position in a second referendum based on the agreement it secured.
Condemning the Tories handling of Brexit as “shambolic”, the opposition frontbencher said: “What we have said us that we will renegotiate a sensible deal with the European Union that puts our economy, working life and standards first and we will put that deal to a public vote so that people can decide whether that is what they voted for whether they are happy to accept it.”
Describing it as a “referendum of sorts”, Ms Long-Bailey added: “We will make an assessment of the deal at the time. We will try and get the best that we possibly can.”
The party would seek a customs union, close single market alignment and protection of rights and standards – and then discuss the deal with party members, she said.
Pressed on whether Labour could then campaign for Leave, she said: “We will have to make that judgement at the time based on the deal that we manage to garner at from the European Union.
“Ultimately underpinning our final decision is how good that deal is.”
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson told Ridge: “It is not irrelevant to recognise that the Labour leadership do not even now… know if they want to Remain or to Leave.”
She added: “The reality is Brexit will be bad for jobs, it will be bad for workers’ rights, it will be bad for the economy.
“Brexit will be bad for our country – that’s why Liberal Democrats want to stop Brexit.”