In Brief

EU set to reject outright Johnson and Hunt's backstop plan

Sources in Brussels say they are not scared of a no-deal Brexit

Predictions of a no-deal Brexit have risen after EU sources said Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt’s apparent plan to axe the Irish border backstop from the withdrawal agreement will be rejected outright by Brussels.

The Guardian reports that “informed sources” say that if the next prime minister makes such a suggestion to Brussels, he will be told in “no uncertain terms” that it amounts to a declaration of no deal.

The BBC says Johnson and Hunt have given the UK “another almighty heave in the direction of no deal”. With both would-be leaders wanting the backstop axed, something the EU will never accept, which according to the Financial Times means “we have deadlock”.

Amid commentary that the Tory leadership hopefuls are merely trying to intimidate the EU ahead of new negotiations, Reuters says that a Brussels official responded: “If the Brits really think we are so scared of a no-deal Brexit, they are being naive.”

The EU had already rejected any plan that involves scrapping the Irish backstop. When the Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, who is part of Johnson’s campaign, met the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, last week.

Barclay told Barnier five times during the meeting that the backstop was dead. He was told that a deal without the backstop is fantasy.

Meanwhile, the former attorney general Dominic Grieve says Hunt and Johnson’s backstop position at the most recent debate seemed to rule out any compromise.

The pro-EU Tory MP and People's Vote campaign co-chairman Grieve told the BBC: “I think it is significant because I have in the past heard it suggested… that there might be some possibility of compromise by the backstop being tweaked and on the face of it, it entirely rules it out.”

Grieve also predicted that a Tory government pushing for a no-deal Brexit would fall. He said blocking no deal “might be quite difficult” but added: “If a government persists in trying to carry out a no-deal Brexit, I think that administration is going to fall.”

Ursula von der Leyen – who was last night voted to be European Commission president - told MEPs yesterday that the deadlock could lead to a fresh extension of the withdrawal deadline.

“The Withdrawal Agreement provides certainty where Brexit created uncertainty, preserving the rights of citizens and in preserving peace and stability on the island of Ireland,” she said.

“However, I stand ready for further extension of the withdrawal date should more time be required for a good reason.” The BBC says her words were greeted with “groans” from Brexit Party MEPs.

Recommended

Deal or no deal: showdown Brexit talks resuming in Brussels
Brexit trade talks to resume between the European Union and the UK
In Depth

Deal or no deal: showdown Brexit talks resuming in Brussels

Will coronavirus change Boris Johnson’s leadership style?
Boris Johnson
In Depth

Will coronavirus change Boris Johnson’s leadership style?

‘Justice in retreat’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Justice in retreat’

How many people need to be vaccinated against Covid to get life back to normal?
Margaret Keenan becomes the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine
In Focus

How many people need to be vaccinated against Covid to get life back to normal?

Popular articles

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021
Line of Duty series six returns to BBC One in 2021
In Depth

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021

Quiz of The Week
Boris Johnson chairs a session of the UN Security Council
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 Feb 2020
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 Feb 2020