Hopes of new Brexit deal killed off as Angela Merkel 'rejects Boris Johnson plan'
Hopes of a new Brexit deal being agreed between the UK and EU have been all-but killed off after Angela Merkel told Boris Johnson his new plan is unacceptable.
The German Chancellor revealed her views to the Prime Minister during a "frank" early-morning phone call on Tuesday.
According to a Number 10 source, Mrs Merkel "made clear a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely" because the EU wants Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union.
The source said: "It was a very clarifying moment in all sorts of ways.
"If this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible not just now but ever.
"It also made clear that they are willing to torpedo the Good Friday Agreement."
But the incendiary briefing triggered a furious backlash from Brussels, with European Council president Donald Tusk briefing: "What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game.
"At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people.
"You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?"
Labour's Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Kier Starmer said: "This is yet another cynical attempt by Number 10 to sabotage the negotiations. Boris Johnson will never take responsibility for his own failure to put forward a credible deal.
“His strategy from day one has been for a no deal Brexit.”
And Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The UK government’s attempts to shift the blame for the Brexit fiasco to anyone but themselves - today it’s Merkel - is pathetically transparent.”
But DUP leader Arlene Foster said the PM's phone call with Mrs Merkel had revealed "the real objective of Dublin and the European Union".
She said: "No UK Government could ever concede such a surrender. The EU is not interested in a negotiated outcome at this time.”
The call came as the Government released its latest readiness plans for a no-deal Brexit, including a commitment for a "significant increase" in border agents and a new helpline to aid businesses prepare for the UK's exit from the bloc.
The new report also includes plans for a dedicated "support unit" for medical good suppliers to ensure the firms are prepared for new customs arrangements in the event of a no-deal exit.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister in charge of preparing for a no deal, said: "At every point, the Government will be candid about any further challenges ahead as well as clear-eyed about the opportunities.
“Together, government, businesses and citizens are working so that we will be ready for Brexit on 31 October– and can look forward to the future with certainty and confidence."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe