Boris Johnson clashes with Bank of England chief over whether Britain can strike a deal to continue free trade with EU after Brexit

JOE MURPHY, NIcholas Cecil

Boris Johnson clashed with the Bank of England Governor today over whether Britain can strike a deal to continue free trade with the EU after Brexit.

The Tory leadership contender called on people to be “a little more positive” about the options for Britain if it leaves the European Union on October 31.

In a stormy LBC interview, Mr Johnson was repeatedly challenged by interviewer Nick Ferrari to say if he was accusing Mark Carney of being wrong.

Mr Johnson insisted Britain would be allowed to use world trade laws to enjoy a period without any changes to tariffs that would endanger exports, something the Bank Governor and many others have stressed would be impossible to demand without agreement in Brussels.

Bank of England Mark Carney (AFP/Getty Images)

The former London mayor said Mr Carney was “wrong in thinking it is not an option”. He said Britain could continue to trade “in the same way as we normally trade”.

Asked if Mr Carney was wrong, Mr Johnson said: “He’s right in the sense that GATT, Article 24, paragraph 5b, makes it perfectly clear that two countries that are in the process of beginning a free trade agreement may protract their existing arrangements until such time ... as they have completed a new trade agreement. That is the way forward.”

Quizzed: Mr Johnson faced questions from LBC listeners and host Nick Ferrari (Jeremy Selwyn)

When told Mr Carney disagreed, Mr Johnson went on: “Where Mark is right is saying that that implies mutuality, there has to be an agreement on both sides.” Challenged again, he said: “Well, he’s wrong in thinking it is not an option, it is certainly an option. I don’t know if he has said it is not an option, but people are wrong if they say it is not an option. I don’t think Mark Carney has said that.”

Mr Johnson has been under repeated pressure over his plan to use GATT [general agreement on tariffs and trade] rules to extend the current trade terms after Brexit.

His European Research Group allies argue that the GATT rules allow for an extension to allow trade negotiations. However, the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, has ruled that GATT only applies to smooth the way to a deal that has been largely agreed in advance. Liam Fox has also questioned Mr Johnson’s plans. Asked about Mr Cox’s concerns, Mr Johnson said: “No, I think there is some confusion about this. What you can’t do is unilaterally use a GATT 24 solution.”

Mr Johnson continued: “But what you could do is agree with our EU friends and partners to go forward on that basis. When you think about it, we haven’t had an interruption to trade between the UK and the Continent for years and years. It would be bizarre if the EU were to decide on their own to impose tariffs on goods coming from the UK. It wouldn’t be in the interests of their businesses or their consumers. Let’s be a little more positive about this.”

Mr Carney stressed last week that the return of tariffs would be “automatic” if Britain left the EU with no deal.

“The GATT rules are clear,” the governor said. “We should be clear that not having an agreement with the EU would mean that there are tariffs automatically.”

Mr Johnson was repeatedly challenged by interviewer Nick Ferrari (Jeremy Selwyn)

Mr Johnson repeatedly refused to deny that a photo of him and his partner Carrie Symonds was six weeks old.

The picture taken in the Sussex countryside appeared in the media yesterday, just days after the couple had a row at her London flat and the police were called by a neighbour.

Pressed on when it was taken and whether it was old, he said: “I’m not going to comment on the antiquity or the provenance of some photo that newspapers decide to put on their front pages.”

He accused Mr Ferrari of turning the interview into a “farce” with the repeated questions about the photo.

But the presenter stuck to his line of questioning, even at one point joking that it was pop star Ed Sheeran not Mr Johnson in the picture.

Asked if he knew the photo was being put out, Mr Johnson responded: “I’m aware of all sorts of pictures of me out on the internet. It’s entirely up to the newspapers to decide what they want to print.” He sought to bring the conversation back to his policies and insisted it was “not fair” on his family and loved ones to answer questions about his private life.

Mr Johnson waded into the row over LGBT teaching at a Birmingham school, where some parents have withdrawn their children in protest.

He backed LGBT equality and the need for children to attend lessons and learn about “the world as it is”.

“I believe very strongly that people should be able to love whoever they choose,” he said. “That’s the way we live our lives in the UK.” He added: “I don’t think kids should be unreasonably taken out of school.” Rival Jeremy Hunt has also backed the school against the parents.

Under the spotlight: Boris Johnson answers questions in a live radio phone-in on LBC today (Jeremy Selwyn)

On Brexit, Mr Johnson warned that the Tories were “staring down the barrel of defeat” if the UK does not quit the European Union. Seeking to explain how he could get a Brexit deal agreed by both Brussels and Parliament, he claimed that “politics has totally changed” since March 29, the original departure date from the European bloc. He told LBC: “People are looking at this thing and thinking ‘Parliament is just not going to do this’. But, actually, I think they are.”

Mr Johnson confirmed he is willing to quit the EU without a deal, but his rhetoric has changed in recent days to stress that he wants a stripped-down agreement with the EU, including that free trade would keep going for an “implementation period” to allow more negotiation.

He backed the ambition of recruiting 20,000 more police officers, as proposed by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, although he refused to put a timescale on it. The former foreign secretary also warned that seeking to blame him for the continued imprisonment in Iran of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on spying charges, which she and Britain strongly deny, was shifting responsibility away from the hardliners in Tehran.