Boris Throws Down Gauntlet to EU at G7: Brexit on Oct 31st ‘Whatever the Circumstances’

Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images
Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images

British prime minister Boris Johnson has reiterated his determination that Brexit takes place on October 31st at a G7 meeting with Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.

President Tusk is at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Biarritz, France, despite the fact he does not represent a G7 country, and holds his unelected position as a European Union functionary despite the opposition of the government in his native Poland.

He has traded barbs with Britain’s new prime minister, who backed Brexit during the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU — unlike predecessor Theresa May — in recent weeks, saying it will be the Briton’s fault if the country breaks with the bloc without a deal as a result of not caving to its demands.

Johnson, on the other hand, takes the view that it will be the EU’s fault if the bloc and its departing member-state revert to dealing with each other on standard World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, due to its unwillingness to consider a deal other than the one negotiated by Theresa May, which would leave Brussels in control of huge swathes of Britain’s economy and trade policy — and had been rejected by the British parliament three times.

“The [Prime Minister] repeated that we will be leaving the EU on the 31st of October whatever the circumstances, we must respect the referendum result,” a British official said of the tête-à-tête, in comments reported by the Reuters news agency.

“We need input from their side… What we would ideally have been hoping for and looking for were new elements to unblock the situation,” said an EU official — who declined to be named, according to Reuters — indicating that the meeting was something of a stalemate in which the two sides merely reiterated their previous positions.

“But, it was absolutely cordial all the time. It was not difficult,” they added, suggesting that relations are not openly rancourous, at least for now.

Prime Minister Johnson also met with U.S. leader Donald Trump, who has been more or less openly supportive of Brexit for some time; critical of Theresa May’s timid approach to negotiations with the EU and at pains to stress his country’s willingness to strike “fantastic” deals with the British if they can reclaim control over their trade policy from Brussels.

“[Boris Johnson] needs no advice [on delivering Brexit],” the President told reporters at the meeting.

“He’s the right man for the job, I’ve been saying that for a long time… Didn’t make your predecessor very happy,” he said to Johnson with a grin.

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