Boris Johnson 'rather be dead in a ditch' than ask for Brexit extension

Despite a hostile Parliament blocking his every move and his own party in turmoil, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he'd "rather be dead in a ditch" than ask for a Brexit extension.

The British Labour Party may have a chokehold on Johnson's plans for a snap general election - blocking a motion on Thursday (NZ time) from the government that would have called for one - but that didn't stop him beginning his unofficial campaign on Friday.

Speaking in Wakefield, south of Leeds, at an event launching his pledge to recruit 20,000 new police officers, the Prime Minister said he would not submit to Labour's demand that he request an extension past October 31 for Brexit.

"Not only [is Labour] voting to make it impossible for this country to leave the EU, but they are also making it impossible for the people of this country to have an election," Johnson said.

"I would rather be dead in a ditch [than ask for an extension]. It costs a billion pounds a month, it achieves absolutely nothing, what on earth is the point of further delay, I think it is totally pointless."

Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson. Photo credit: Getty.

It's been a week of hurdles for the only recently appointed Prime Minister. On Tuesday, Parliament voted to give the Opposition control of the British House of Commons, allowing for the proposal of a Bill effectively blocking a no-deal Brexit.

After that passed - with the support of rebel Tory MPs - Johnson called for an election. However, that motion didn't get the support of two-thirds of the House of Commons, putting the Prime Minister on the back foot.

Having an election would have allowed Johnson to purge his party of 21 rebels - who have been told they won't be allowed to stand for the party again - and install loyalists in support of Britain leaving the European Union on October 31 with or without a deal.

"I hate banging on about Brexit. I don’t want to go about this any more. I don’t want an election at all, but frankly I cannot see any other way. The only way to get this thing done, to get this thing moving, is to make that decision," he said on Friday.

The Labour Party supports having a general election, but won't agree to one until a block to a no-deal Brexit has been given the Royal Assent. That was unlikely to happen if an election was called for.

"When no deal is off the table, once and for all, we should go back to the people in a public vote or a general election to decide our country's fate," said Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Friday was another tumultuous day after Johnson's own brother, Jo, quit as a Government Minister, citing a conflict between family loyalty and national interest.

"Jo doesn't agree with me about the European Union. It is an issue that divides families and divides everybody. But what I think Jo would agree, is that we need to get on and sort this thing out," Johnson said.

Northern Ireland Minister Nick Hurd also decided on Friday he will step down at the next general election.

On Wednesday, the Conservative Party also lost its one member majority when Phillip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrats while Johnson was speaking in the House.

Lee said the Conservatives, was "aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways". 

Johnson's decision to also make his speech with a background of newly recruited police officers has been criticised by Labour Party member and West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

"To use police officers as the backdrop to what became a political speech was inappropriate and they shouldn't have been put in that position," he said.

"It clearly turned into a rant about Brexit, the opposition and a potential general election. There's no way that police officers should've formed the backdrop to a speech of that nature."

One officer felt sick.
One officer felt sick. Photo credit: Reuters.

Johnson has always been known for his gaffes and he didn't disappoint on Friday. He asked the new police officers what police caution was and after they failed to read it out, he attempted to recite it himself, failing. 

Near the end of a Q and A with media, one of the officers also appeared to nearly be sick, sitting down looking ill. Johnson said it was likely a sign he needed to wind up his remarks.