Brexit ultimatum: Boris Johnson turns up pressure on EU over Irish backstop – ‘It’s dead’

Posted on Jul 30 2019 - 1:44pm by admin

But he made clear he will not join further talks as long as the bloc shifts from the current insistence that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement cannot be rewritten. Mr Johnson’s uncompromising warning came during his first visit to Scotland since taking over his new job last week. He said during a visit to the Faslane naval base near Glasgow: “My approach is to be very outward-going, I don’t want the UK to be aloof or hanging back. I want us to engage to hold out the hand, to go the extra thousand miles, and what we want to do is make it absolutely clear that the backstop is no good, it’s dead, it’s got to go. The Withdrawal Agreement is dead, it’s got to go. But there is scope for us to do a new deal.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is determined to get Brexit done by Hallowe’en (Image: Getty)

“We will make it very clear to our friends – we’re talking to the Irish today – what the limits are and what we want to do. We’re very confident that with goodwill on both sides, two mature political entities, the UK and EU, can get this thing done.”

Mr Johnson has had invitations from French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, below, to meet this summer in an effort to break the Brexit deadlock and prevent the UK quitting the EU on October 31.

The Prime Minister said he had so far had some “interesting conversations with our European partners” to make his stance clear.

He added: “It’s very, very positive and they all know where we are.

President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Image: Getty)

“We can’t accept the backstop. The Withdrawal Agreement as it stands is dead, I think everybody gets that, but there is ample scope to do a new deal and a better deal.”

Insisting he was “confident” of eventual concessions from EU leaders, he added: “They are resting on their current position, but I think they understand that the UK and the EU are two great political entities and I’m sure it is possible for us to come up with a new deal that will be to the benefit of both sides and that’s what we are aiming for.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that he wants to meet EU leaders and negotiate but not to sit down and be told that the EU cannot possibly reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, and that is the message he has been giving to leaders when he’s spoken to them on the telephone.

“The Prime Minister wants to leave with a deal and we hope that the EU will change their position on the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop.”

Mr Johnson had been in contact with “a number” of European leaders by telephone since coming to office last Wednesday and calls were expected to continue in the coming days, the spokeswoman said.

But face-to-face talks had been ruled out unless the EU dropped its refusal to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, below.

He wants the planned backstop – which could keep the entire UK tied into the EU’s customs union in order to prevent physical customs checks on the Irish border – stripped out of the document.

The spokeswoman added: “The Withdrawal Agreement has been rejected by Parliament a number of times now and clearly it is not going to pass in its current form, it needs to change if there’s going to be a deal.

Theresa May

Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is dead (Image: Getty)

“He wants to approach the negotiations in an energetic way but something needs to change. We hope they change their minds in terms of not wanting to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.

“He has been clear that the backstop has to be abolished. He remains confident that the EU will stop claiming the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be changed but until that happens we must assume there will be a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

“The Government’s central focus is preparing for that.”

Downing Street officials also confirmed the Government will soon launch a massive public information campaign to advise households and businesses to prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit.

Ministers have ruled out sending leaflets to households but are planning widespread advertising in the media and online, with up to £100million to be set aside for the blitz.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

The new Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (Image: Getty)

“You can expect to see an ambitious, active public awareness campaign backed by the necessary funding and that is to ensure that businesses and citizens have the information they need to adequately prepare.

“You can expect to see a variety of different channels to maximise the reach,” the spokeswoman said.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Johnson’s newly appointed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, above, insisted the UK will quit the EU without a deal this autumn unless the bloc’s leaders drop their refusal to renegotiate the exit deal.

Ramping up the pressure, he said: “We’ll keep straining every sinew if there is a deal to be done, but the EU will need to move and, if they don’t, it is incredibly important that we are ready for eventualities.”

He accused the EU of adopting a “series of fairly stubborn positions” and said the Government has to be able to offer “finality” for people by preparing for no-deal.

In another sign of the quickening pace of Government Brexit preparations, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss met Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, yesterday to discuss plans for a trans-Atlantic trade deal.

She said: “Negotiating and signing exciting new free trade agreements is my top priority – and none are more important than with the United States. “This deal has the potential to deliver new markets for great British products and services and lower prices and more choices for British shoppers.

“We are fast-tracking these deals, and making sure British businesses are ready to trade so they can take advantage of the golden opportunities ahead.” 

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