We leave EU on Oct 31 no matter what: Boris

Johnson issues ultimatum to EU over Brexit talks

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LONDON

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Tuesday that Britain will be leaving the European Union no matter what on October 31, stressing that the so-called Irish backstop had to be removed from any exit deal. The prime minister made clear that the UK will be leaving the EU on October 31, no matter what, said a statement from Johnson’s office about a phone call between the two.

The prime minister made clear that the government will approach any negotiations which take place with determination and energy and in a spirit of friendship, and that his clear preference is to leave the EU. Varadkar told Johnson on Tuesday that the Brexit withdrawal agreement could not be reopened, and that satisfactory alternative arrangements have yet to be identified.

Alternative arrangements could replace the backstop in the future, but thus far satisfactory options have yet to be identified and demonstrated, Varadkar told Johnson in a phone call, the Irish government’s press office said. Varadkar invited Johnson to Dublin for talks on Brexit and for a discussion of bilateral matters including Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area, the press office added.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not start talks with European Union leaders over Brexit unless they first agree to his demand to reopen the divorce deal they struck with his predecessor, Theresa May, his office warned.So far, EU leaders have refused. The pound fell to its lowest in two years on growing fears the new premier will steer Britain into an economically damaging no-deal split.

Johnson stepped up the government’s preparations for leaving the EU without an agreement as his senior officials warned that the country will have no choice, if the bloc does not change its approach to further negotiations.

With fewer than 100 days left until the UK is due to exit the 28-member bloc on the deadline of Oct 31, Mr Johnson is tearing up the way Britain’s government operates to ready the country for the potential impact of a no-deal breakup.

More money is being made available for contingency planning, and a mass public information campaign will launch in the weeks ahead to advise businesses and citizens how to prepare. Johnson has packed his Cabinet with pro-Brexit ministers and officials who led the 2016 Vote Leave campaign with him, to ensure every part of the state is geared towards exit day on Halloween.

The prime minister still says he wants a deal with the EU but has two key conditions: the bloc must re-open the Withdrawal Agreement it negotiated last year, and it must agree to scrap the so-called backstop guarantee for the Irish border – the provision intended to ensure there’s no need for checks on goods crossing the land border with Ireland. Johnson has said the backstop is undemocratic because it risks locking the UK into a trading relationship with the EU indefinitely.

 

EU leaders have repeatedly said they’re not prepared to revise the deal that Mrs May tried and failed to get approved by the UK Parliament and that any accord must contain the backstop.

As a result, Mr Johnson sees no point in meeting with them face-to-face, his spokeswoman Alison Donnelly said on Monday. The prime minister will be happy to sit down with leaders when that position changes, but he’s making it clear to everybody he speaks to that that needs to happen, she said.

While the government would prefer to leave with a deal, Ms Donnelly said, its “central scenario” is to do so without one unless the EU shifts its position. The pound fell more than 1 per cent.

 

During a trip to Scotland, Mr Johnson insisted he still believed a deal was achievable., “We’re very confident, with goodwill on both sides, two mature political entities – the UK and EU – can get this done,” Mr Johnson said in televised comments.

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