Johnson Plays Hardball, Won’t Meet with EU Until They Remove Backstop

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: New Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to media outside Number 10, Downing Street on July 24, 2019 in London, England. Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, was elected leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party yesterday receiving 66 percent of the votes cast …
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told EU leaders he will not meet to discuss Brexit with them until they are ready to renegotiate the exit treaty.

“The PM has been setting out to European leaders the position… that the Withdrawal Agreement with the backstop has not been able to pass parliament on the three occasions it was put in front of parliament. Therefore it needs to change,” Prime Minister Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday, according to Reuters.

“The prime minister would be happy to sit down when that position changes. But he is making it clear to everybody he speaks to that that needs to happen,” the spokesman added.

A senior government source had told the Daily Mail that Mr Johnson had no plans to visit Brussels, Berlin, or Paris after tense talks with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron last week where the three European leaders rejected the prime minister’s call to scrap the contentious Irish backstop from the withdrawal treaty.

Mr Johnson has committed to taking the UK out of the EU on October 31st, and while the prime minister holds out hope the exit treaty will be negotiated, Michael Gove, the minister is charge of coordinating Mr Johnson’s Brexit strategy, said the government “must operate on the assumption” that Brussels will not reopen talks and plans for a no-deal Brexit are fast advancing.

“I wouldn’t expect to see the Prime Minister doing the ritual tour of European capitals this summer for the sake of it,’ the source told the Daily Mail. “If they want to take the backstop out, then great, let’s get round the table.

‘If they don’t – and at the moment it seems they don’t – then OK, we will crack on and prepare for No Deal. We won’t be going to them.”

The prime minister and his team have formed three Brexit committees charged with preparing the UK for a clean break on October 31st. The “War Cabinet”, as it has been dubbed, will be chaired by the prime minister, with a second committee providing daily briefings to the prime minister on exit planning, and a third focusing on the UK’s future trading relationship with the U.S. and other global economies.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab made the rounds on British media on Monday, telling LBC this morning that the UK would be leaving the EU “on World Trade Organization terms” if the EU does not remove the Irish backstop — a regulatory mechanism which could lock the UK long-term, if not permanently, into the bloc’s Customs Union, preventing the UK from agreeing its own free trade agreements.

“If the EU continue to stick to their position that there cannot be any change to the Withdrawal Agreement then I think the balance has shifted and we will end up leaving on WTO terms,” Mr Raab told ITV, and criticised the intransigence of Brussels when he later told Sky News: “They [the EU leaders] have been pretty stubborn throughout.”

London has made it clear to the EU that it intends to take the UK out of the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal. Former Prime Minister Theresa May was criticised for her part in failing to communicate with the same unwavering intention to deliver Brexit by the original deadline, March 29th, resulting in the country’s weak negotiating hand with Brussels. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier alleged this month that Mrs May had not once in three years of negotiation articulated the possibility that the UK would reject the deal and to make a clean break of the EU.

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