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.