Scotland politics

Boris Johnson: SNP seeking indyref2 pact with Corbyn

Boris Johnson speech Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson used his conference speech to stress his desire to "get Brexit done"

The SNP want to "bundle" Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street to secure a new independence referendum in 2020, Boris Johnson has claimed.

The prime minister told the Tory party conference that the SNP may try to put the Labour leader in power to deliver fresh votes on independence and Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is "open-minded" about replacing Mr Johnson with a caretaker prime minister.

Mr Johnson said more referendums would cause "total national discord".

The prime minister was speaking on the final day of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

Opposition parties have been meeting to discuss the possibility of forcing him from office via a confidence motion, with the SNP pushing for an early vote.

However parties have so far failed to unite behind this plan, with Mr Corbyn saying such a vote should only take place "at a point we can win it and take no-deal off the table".

Mr Johnson used his speech to attack the Labour leader's suitability for office, but said "the SNP may yet try to bundle him towards the throne".

Mr Johnson said the SNP had a "programme for total national discord" which would see 2020 taken up by "the chaos and cacophony of two more referendums - a second referendum on Scottish independence, even though the Scottish people were promised that the 2014 vote would be a once in a generation decision - and a second referendum on the EU".

He said the UK was "the most successful political partnership in history", and said he would "defend" the union "against those who would want only destroy it".

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon differ over Brexit and independence

Ms Sturgeon wants to hold a new referendum on independence in the second half of 2020, and her government has put forward legislation at Holyrood to facilitate this.

However the first minister wants to secure an agreement with the UK government before holding such a vote, to put it "beyond legal challenge".

The UK government has so far refused to consider such a deal, saying the issue was settled with the 2014 referendum.

Ms Sturgeon calls this position "unsustainable" and "undemocratic", and has said Scotland's "right to choose independence" will be "right at the heart" of her party's platform in the expected general election.

New Brexit proposals

Mr Johnson's speech came as the government delivered its new Brexit proposals to the EU, including plans to replace the Irish backstop.

The prime minister told the conference that the only alternative to his plan was no-deal. The European Commission has said it will "examine [the proposals] objectively".

The plan, outlined in a seven-page document, would see Northern Ireland stay in the European single market for goods, but leave the customs union - resulting in new customs checks.

The Northern Ireland Assembly would get to approve the arrangements first and vote every four years on keeping them.

Government sources say they believe they could enter an intense 10-day period of negotiations with the EU almost immediately, with the aim of coming to a final agreement at an EU summit on 17 October.

SNP MP Stephen Gethins said Mr Johnson's proposal was "utterly unacceptable and yet another push towards a catastrophic No-deal exit".

He added: "It is clear that if Johnson pursues crashing out of the EU without a deal - hitting jobs, public services and people's livelihoods - then the blame will lie solely and squarely at the door of the Tory party."

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party - long-term critics of the backstop and partners of the Conservative Party in Parliament - gave a cautious welcome to the proposals.

But Sinn Fein said the plans were a "non-starter", and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the deal was "not acceptable" and "worse" than Theresa May's agreement, as it "undermined" the Good Friday Agreement that secured peace in Northern Ireland.

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