Boris Johnson encounters European resistance over Brexit plan
European opposition is mounting to Boris Johnson’s plan to negotiate a new Brexit deal before the October 31 deadline.
The Prime Minister has made clear that the deal thrashed out by Brussels with Theresa May is dead and that he will take the UK out of the EU on Halloween with or without a new agreement.
But Ireland claimed he had put the UK on a “collision course” with the EU, while France stressed that the existing deal would not be renegotiated.
Mr Johnson spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron to set out his position, insisting that the Northern Ireland backstop will have to go if there is to be a new Brexit deal between Britain and the EU.
Downing Street said the two leaders spoke by telephone for the first time since Mr Johnson took office as Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson had delivered the same message as when he spoke to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday – that Mrs May’s Brexit deal would not get through Parliament.
“The purpose of the call was to congratulate the Prime Minister. They did discuss Brexit,” the spokesman said.
“When the Prime Minister has these conversations with fellow leaders and the discussion moves on to Brexit, he will be setting out the same message which he delivered in the House of Commons yesterday.
“He wants to do a deal. He will be energetic in trying to seek that deal, but the Withdrawal Agreement has been rejected three times by the House of Commons. It is not going to pass.
“That means reopening the Withdrawal Agreement and securing the abolition of the backstop.”
French Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin stressed Paris’s opposition to renegotiating the deal.
“We have to be very clear on that,” she told France 2. “We’ve always said that if the UK wants to leave the EU, and if it wants to do it in an orderly manner, the best thing we have is the agreement.”
She said the “divorce agreement” had not been “imposed on the British” but was the result of painstaking negotiation.
“It’s two years of work between Michel Barnier’s team in Brussels and the British team to set out point by point, pragmatically, in a realistic and concrete manner, how we can mark that there is a before and an after.
“It’s not us who want there to be a before and an after. What we’re trying to say is that in this agreement we are saying ‘Here is how we separate’ and for me the key, what I’d like to do in the weeks to come, is to pass that stage and negotiate calmly how we can work afterwards.”
Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said Mr Johnson’s comments in the Commons on Thursday setting out his Brexit plans were “very unhelpful”.
“He seems to have made a deliberated decision to set Britain on a collision course with the European Union and with Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations.
“I think only he can answer the question as to why he is doing that.”
Mr Johnson has been warned by Tory hardliners that he must keep to his October 31 promise or face “disaster”.
Ardent Eurosceptic Steve Baker turned down an offer to join his Government because he feared being sidelined over Brexit policy.
He insisted he had “total confidence” in the Prime Minister to deliver on his commitment to meet the October 31 deadline, but, in a sign that the European Research Group of Brexiteers will force him to keep the pledge, Mr Baker said: “Disaster awaits otherwise.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “That is obviously a decision for Steve Baker. He set out is full confidence in the PM delivering on his pledge that the UK will the EU on October 31.”