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AFP
December 7, 2019

UK PM faces flak

World

AFP
December 7, 2019

Boris Johnson came under fire on Friday for avoiding a set-piece television interview and faced accusations of misleading Britain about his Brexit deal, as he prepared to face a final general election debate with his main challenger.

Four other major party leaders have already subjected themselves to an uncomfortable grilling from Andrew Neil, who is one of the BBC’s top political interviewers. But the prime minister has so far declined to do so, with less than a week to go until Britons go to the polls to elect a new parliament for the third time in four years.

The Conservative party leader brushed off fresh questions about the issue as he toured southeast England before the second and last TV showdown with Jeremy Corbyn at 2030 GMT.

"I’m the only prime minister to have done not one but, by tonight, two head-to-head debates," the Conservative party leader Johnson told reporters at a poster launch in Kent. "I’ve done 118 sit-down interviews with journalists... We can’t do everyone," he added.

Former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil said Johnson faced questions of trust, and it was his job to "scrutinise and hold to account those who would govern us".

"We’ve always proceeded in good faith that the leaders would participate. And in every election they have. All of them. Until this one," he said. Labour Party leader Corbyn meanwhile claimed he had obtained leaked documents proving Johnson was "deliberately misleading the people" about his Brexit divorce deal.

He said finance ministry papers suggested there would be customs declarations and security checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, contrary to what he had claimed. "This is the cold, hard evidence that categorically shows the impact Johnson’s damaging Brexit deal will have on large parts of our country," the veteran socialist said.

"This drives a coach and horses through Boris Johnson’s claim that there will be no border in the Irish Sea," he added, suggesting the Tories could be withholding more details. Corbyn has previously accused Johnson of cooking up a secret deal with US President Donald Trump to sell off the state-run National Health Service, citing unredacted documents.

Both Trump and Johnson deny the claim.

The Conservatives claimed the Treasury paper was an "immediate assessment, not a detailed analysis of the deal" and was not used for decision-making purposes. Party co-chairman James Cleverly said Corbyn’s leaked documents "don’t back up his wild conspiracy theories".