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Boris Johnson says new EU vote would unleash British 'anger'

Boris Johnson quit as foreign minister in Prime Minister Theresa May's right-wing government last year in protest at her proposed departure deal with the EU
Boris Johnson quit as foreign minister in Prime Minister Theresa May's right-wing government last year in protest at her proposed departure deal with the EU Boris Johnson quit as foreign minister in Prime Minister Theresa May's right-wing government last year in protest at her proposed departure deal with the EU AFP/File
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New Delhi (AFP)

Britain's Brexit champion Boris Johnson on Saturday hit out at mounting calls for a second referendum on European Union membership predicting it would arouse widespread "anger".

The former foreign minister turned tormentor of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May also mocked the "bastards" who run the EU as he attacked the bloc.

Questioned at a conference in New Delhi about pressure for a repeat of the 2016 referendum in Britain, Johnson said "I don't think that's possible."

"I think that the anger in the population would be so intense and the tedium -- people would be driven absolutely round the bend by the idea of having to vote on this thing again."

"It was a very acrimonious, very divisive campaign" in 2016, he said, predicting any second vote would produce the same result.

Johnson quit as foreign minister in May's right-wing government last year in protest at her proposed departure deal with the EU -- which would keep Britain temporarily in the EU customs union as a "backstop" until problems with the Irish border are settled.

Parliament has since rejected the deal and May is battling political turmoil ahead of the scheduled March 29 departure date.

- Brexit not 'xenophobic' -

"We need to get this Brexit done properly and our prime minister now needs to punch a hole through that backstop and it has got to be a hole that is big enough to fit the entire United Kingdom," Johnson told the India Today media group conference.

"Once she does that we are free. We are at the races. I am hoping she will do it," he declared of the intense talks between the government and Brussels.

Johnson also told the Indian audience that Brexit was misunderstood by those who say it is an "xenophobic, nationalistic and reactionary phenomenon."

"My objection to the EU was not that it was run by foreigners. The problem is we don't really know who is running it," Johnson said, mocking the five presidents of the EU commission, council of ministers, parliament and other bodies.

"I couldn't tell you who they are, or what they do or how they came by their jobs or how they may be removed from office.

"I have no idea how to kick those particular bastards out -- I'm not saying they are bastards. But millions and millions of people in the UK have no idea how the system works. It's completely cut off to them."

Johnson said those who predict disaster for Britain outside the bloc are "chicken lickens" but said there were still "many in the upper reaches of the UK government."

"They are like the people who said that Columbus would sail off the edge of the world."

"There is a very big struggle going on over what Brexit really means," he said.

"The treasury and the whole system, they are really too nervous of taking the leap," he added. Without control of tariffs and regulation, "sincerely you might as well be in" the EU, he said.

"Unless you have the freedom then stay in. I don't think the UK is going to stay in or that the UK should stay in," he added however.

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