Johnson refuses to criticise Trump’s election ‘fraud’ comments

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions
Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions (PA Wire)
15:58pm, Wed 04 Nov 2020
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Boris Johnson has refused to criticise Donald Trump for prematurely claiming victory in the US election and threatening to use the courts to stop votes being counted.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab both refused to be drawn on the controversy in the contest between Mr Trump and Joe Biden.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was not up to Mr Trump to say when votes should stop being counted and “the next president must be the free and fair choice of the American people”.

Mr Trump claimed there is a “fraud on the American nation” and said he would go to the US Supreme Court to get vote counting stopped, as the contest hung in the balance.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir asked Mr Johnson: “Whatever the result, will the Prime Minister join me in saying that it’s not for a candidate to decide which votes do and don’t count or when to stop counting.”

Mr Johnson replied: “Of course we don’t comment as a UK Government on the democratic processes of our friends and allies.”

Mr Raab said: “We need to be patient and wait and see who wins the US election.”

It was “important the process is given sufficient time to reach a conclusion” but we have full confidence in the checks and balances of the US system to produce a result”, he added.

Earlier, the Foreign Secretary had said he would not get “sucked in” to the debate around Mr Trump’s comments.

Mr Raab also insisted the special relationship with the US will endure whoever wins the bitterly contested American election.

The Foreign Secretary said the “bedrock” of the relationship was based on strong economic, security and cultural ties, although he acknowledged the “contours” would be different depending on whether Mr Biden or Mr Trump won.

Republican incumbent Mr Trump has been a staunch supporter of Brexit and the prospect of a UK-US trade deal, but a Biden administration is expected to be cooler on the idea.

Mr Biden, who has Irish ancestry, has publicly criticised the Government over its plan to tear up the Brexit divorce deal and break international law over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Johnson had never personally met the Democrat contender.

Mr Raab sought to play down the prospect of a strained relationship under a Biden administration and stressed that the US election was still too close to call.

He told Sky News: “I’m not worried about the relationship. The contours of the opportunities and the risks always shift a little bit, but that needs to be set against the context of this bedrock and this wider set of interests which are so strong.”

He said he was “very confident that regardless of whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat win, the British-US relationship is in great shape”.

Asked about the president’s outburst on postal ballots and decision to go to the US Supreme Court to stop votes being counted, Mr Raab told Times Radio: “I know that there is obviously a heated debate about the balance and the propriety of posted votes versus votes cast in the ballot box in a polling station – I’m just not getting drawn into that.

“We are right in the heated aftermath where both candidates are making statements… I’m not getting sucked in at all into that debate.”

A change of president could have big implications for the UK-US relationship.

Mr Biden treasures his Irish heritage and has warned that a UK-US trade deal is “contingent” on respect for the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the island and the prevention of a return to a hard border.

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” the Democratic candidate warned in September.

The Foreign Secretary said Democrats take a “very close interest” in the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed while Bill Clinton was in the White House.

Mr Raab said he had met Democrats and “explained the UK position and that actually we have been clear all along that there is no threat to the Good Friday Agreement”.

Former prime minister Theresa May said whoever won the election had to tackle climate change – on the day Mr Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris accord took effect.

She said: “We will soon know who will be the next US president. But, sadly, today also marks the US leaving the Paris accord — the world’s foremost attempt to build consensus on climate change.

“Whoever is elected has an immense responsibility to help tackle our planet’s greatest challenge.”

In a message to his “American friends”, former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The reputation of democracy is at stake and the world is watching. Please proceed carefully.”

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