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Mon, 28 September 2020

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Boris Johnson tells EU leaders Britain will 'head off on our own' if they reject his Brexit plan

Boris Johnson tells EU leaders Britain will 'head off on our own' if they reject his Brexit plan
4 min read

Boris Johnson has warned European leaders that Britain is "packing our bags" and will "head off on our own" if they do not back his Brexit plan.

The Prime Minister said it was now up to the European Union - which has so far given a frosty reception to his proposal to replace the Irish backstop - to "cheerily" wave the UK "off with a mutually agreeable deal".

But the bullish comments came as the EU's chief Brexit negotiator warned the UK it would be to blame for a no-deal outcome - and amid reports ministers are already planning an "aggressive" approach towards Brussels if Mr Johnson is forced to delay Britain's EU exit.

Writing in the Sun on Sunday and the Sunday Express, Mr Johnson said: "After decades of campaigning, three years of arguments and seemingly endless months of pointless delay, it is now just 25 days until the UK's membership of the European Union comes to an end.

"We will be packing our bags and walking out on 31 October. The only question is whether Brussels cheerily waves us off with a mutually agreeable deal, or whether we will be forced to head off on our own."

Mr Johnson likened his fresh Brexit proposal to "jumping to the island in the middle of the river".

And he added: "If we're to leave with a deal, we now need the EU to jump over from its side and join us there, showing its own willingness to do a deal that the UK parliament can support."

But Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, struck a pessimistic tone as he spoke at an event in Paris organised by Le Monde this weekend.

“If they do not change, I do not believe, on the basis of the mandate I have been given by the EU27, that we can advance," he said of the UK's latest proposals.

Urging Britain to come forward with "different proposals" this week, he added: "I want to be extremely clear. No deal will never be Europe’s choice.

"It would be - and note the conditional tense, because I hope still to find a deal - it would always be the UK’s choice, not ours. We’re ready for it, we’ve taken measures to protect our citizens and our businesses. But we do not want it."

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he still believed a deal was "possible at the European Council summit in two weeks' time".

"But the current position as of today is the European Union, including Ireland, doesn't feel that the proposals put forward by Prime Minister Johnson yet form the basis for deeper negotiations," the Irish PM told RTÉ News.


Mr Johnson has repeatedly said that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October "come what may", although ministers have not spelled out how they will side-step the cross-party Benn Act which ordered the Prime Minister to seek a fresh Brexit delay rather than opt for a no-deal Brexit if he cannot strike an agreement by mid-October.

The Sunday Telegraph meanwhile reports that senior government figures are already floating plans to "sabotage" EU structures if Britain does not leave by the Halowe'en deadline.

According to the paper, the UK would try to block the EU's 2021-27 budget when it is agreed next year, while ministers have even discussed appointing Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage as a British commissioner to the EU.

Conservative former Brexit minister Steve Baker backed that plan and compared that it to shooting "a nuclear weapon into the heart of the asteroid".

The claims come ahead of a crucial EU Council Summit on 17 October and after Mr Johnson unveiled his pitch to replace the Irish border backstop plan which has long been dismissed as "undemocratic" by Brexiteers.

The Prime Minister wants to replace the backstop with a regulatory border in the Irish Sea and customs checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic, ultimately paving the way for the UK and EU to diverge on trade.

His pitch to replace the backstop would see Northern Ireland leave the EU's customs union in 2021 but continue to apply many of its single market rules with the regular consent of Northern Ireland's politicians.


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