EU rejects Boris Johnson's 'not realistic' call to axe backstop from Brexit deal
The EU has rejected Boris Johnson’s letter calling for the Irish backstop to be “replaced”, as the Prime Minister was accused of "not proposing realistic alternatives" to the border plan.
Donald Tusk accused Mr Johnson of supporting the return of a hard border in Ireland by being against the policy.
The President of the European Council tweeted his terse response after the PM wrote a four-page missive telling Brussels time was now "very short" to get a withdrawal agreement passed before 31 October.
But Mr Johnson said MPs would not vote for anything which still contained the backstop, which he branded “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK”.
And he said despite them “showing a little bit of reluctance at the moment” he was “confident” Britain’s “friends” in the EU will agree to change the existing Brexit deal.
However Mr Tusk rebuffed him, saying: “The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found.
“Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.”
His comments were echoed by the European Commission, who said the PM does “not provide a legal operational solution to prevent the return of a hard border” in Ireland/
Spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said: "We welcome the UK Government's engagement and continued commitment to an orderly withdrawal.
“We firmly believe this is in the best interests of both the EU and the UK.
"However, we also note that the letter does not provide a legal operational solution to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
"It does not set out what any alternative arrangements could be and in fact it recognises that there is no guarantee that such arrangements will be in place by the end of the transitional period."
Mr Johnson’s letter marks the first time he has formally spelled out the changes he wants made to the withdrawal agreement thrashed out by his predecessor Theresa May.
In it he writes: "The backstop locks the UK, potentially indefinitely, into an international treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland.”
He adds: "It places a substantial regulatory border, rooted in that treaty, between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
“The treaty provides no sovereign means of exiting unilaterally and affords the people of Northern Ireland no influence over the legislation which applies to them.
“That is why the backstop is anti-democratic."
He sent it ahead of two crucial visits to European capitals this week, with Mr Johnson due in Berlin on Wednesday for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel before travelling to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron the following day, ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit.
Labour accused the Prime Minister of having "forgotten that he voted for Theresa May’s deal including the backstop"
Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Tony Lloyd added: “Whichever Brexit outcome he pursues, whether it’s a disastrous no-deal or this fantasyland wish list, Boris Johnson clearly has no qualms about putting jobs, rights, prosperity or peace in Northern Ireland at risk.”