British Prime Minister Boris Johnson likened himself to the comic book character The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview while stressing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31.
The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported Johnson said he would find a way to circumvent a recent parliament vote ordering him to delay Brexit rather than take Britain out of the EU without a transition deal.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” Johnson was quoted as saying. “Hulk always escaped no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31.”
Britain’s parliament has repeatedly rejected the exit deal Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May negotiated with the EU, and this month rejected leaving without a deal – angering many Britons who voted to leave the bloc more than three years ago.
Johnson wants to harness that anger to win a majority in an early national election, but his efforts to call one have so far been thwarted by opposition parties who want to first ensure Britain cannot leave the EU without a deal on October 31.
The Liberal Democrats party, which has 18 seats in Britain’s 650-seat parliament, on Sunday made its bid for the votes of those who want remain in the EU, toughening its anti-Brexit stance to say it would stop the exit process if it won power in an election, and would reject any Brexit deal Johnson struck.
“If people put into government as a majority government, the ‘Stop Brexit’ party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get,” party leader Jo Swinson said.
Johnson has said he wants to negotiate a new deal that does not involve a “backstop”, which would potentially tie Britain against its will to EU rules after it leaves in order to avoid checks on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The EU has so far insisted on the backstop, and Britain has not presented any detailed alternative.
Nonetheless, Johnson said he was “very confident” ahead of a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday.
“There’s a very, very good conversation going on about how to address the issues of the Northern Irish border. A huge amount of progress is being made,” Johnson told the newspaper, without giving details.
The opposition Labour Party called for more information on what Johnson was proposing.
Johnson drew parallels between Britain’s situation in Brexit talks and the frustrations felt by fictional scientist Bruce Banner, who when enraged turned into the super-strong Incredible Hulk, frequently leaving behind a trail of destruction.
“Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them,” he said.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said Johnson’s comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?”
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”