Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday promised to lead Britain out of the European Union on October 31 “no matter what” as Ireland warned that the bloc would not be renegotiating the thrice defeated divorce deal.
“The prime minister made clear that the UK will be leaving the EU on October 31, no matter what,” Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement about a phone call with Irish Premier Leo Varadkar.
Johnson demanded again that one of the most hotly contested elements of the Brexit divorce agreement — the Irish border backstop — would have to be struck out if there was to be a deal.
“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 with a deal, but it must be one that abolishes the backstop,” Downing Street said.
The backstop is a provision in the deal that would require Britain to obey some EU rules if no other way can be found to keep the land border open between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
Johnson rejects it as “undemocratic”. Ireland said the backstop was necessary because of the positions Britain had taken in earlier talks, and that the EU would not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement struck by former prime minister Theresa May.
“The Taoiseach explained that the EU was united in its view that the Withdrawal Agreement could not be reopened,” the Irish government said.
“Alternative arrangements could replace the backstop in the future…but thus far satisfactory options have yet to be identified and demonstrated,” the Irish government said.
On entering Downing Street on Wednesday, Johnson set up a showdown with the EU by vowing to negotiate a new deal and threatening that, if the bloc refused, he would take Britain out on October 31 without a deal to limit economic dislocation.
Many investors say a no-deal Brexit would send shock waves through the world economy, tip Britain’s economy into a recession, roil financial markets and weaken London’s position as the pre-eminent international financial centre.