Boris Johnson ‘confident’ EU will agree Brexit changes ahead of crunch meetings with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron
Boris Johnson has said he is “confident” Britain’s “friends” in the European Union will agree to change the existing Brexit deal as he prepares for two days of meetings with the leaders of France and Germany.
The Prime Minister said he remained “ready to work with our friends and partners” to get a deal, amid intense focus on the Government’s plans to mitigate a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, before heading to Paris the following day for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The new UK government has demanded that European leaders remove the “undemocratic” backstop from the deal negotiated by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.
But Brussels has stood firm in refusing to revisit the proposal designed as a back-up plan to avoid a hard border between Ireland and the Republic.
Speaking to Sky News on a visit to Cornwall, the Prime Minister said Britain would be “ready to come out on 31 October deal or no-deal” as he urged movement from the European side.
“Now, of course, our friends and partners on the other side of the Channel are showing a little bit of reluctance at the moment to change their position,” he said.
“That's fine, I'm confident that they will. But in the meantime, we have to get ready for a no-deal outcome.
"I want a deal. We're ready to work with our friends and partners to get a deal. But if you want a good deal for the UK, you must simultaneously get ready to come out without one.”
The prediction follows the leak of internal Cabinet Office documents which shed light on the Government's ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.
The dossier - reportedly drawn up this month - warned of potential food and fuel shortages, damage to the social care system and a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.
But Mr Johnson insisted the UK had stepped up its preparations for such an outcome since the document was drawn up, as he echoed cabinet minister Michael Gove’s acceptance there would be “bumps in the road”.
“People are very confident themselves that they can do it,” he said. “I'm not pretending that there won't be bumps on the road. There will be. I said that on the steps of Downing Street.
“But if everybody puts their minds to it I have absolutely no doubt that we can be ready.”
Asked whether he believed Ms Merkel and Mr Macron would shift their position on Brexit this week, the Prime Minister said it was “very much up to our friends".
"And I hope that they will compromise, that they have seen the UK parliament has three times rejected the withdrawal agreement, the backstop just doesn’t work, it's not democratic.
"I hope that they will see fit to compromise. But in the meantime we get ready to come out on 31 October."
Explaining the reason for the trip, a Downing Street spokesperson meanwhile said: "The PM believes it’s important to speak to the leaders of France and Germany to deliver the message that he’s been setting out through the phone calls face-to-face."
Elsewhere Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used his own speech in the Conservative-held marginal of Corby to accuse Mr Johnson of "driving the country towards a no-deal cliff edge".
Mr Corbyn claimed the Prime Minister wanted to use a no-deal Brexit "to create a tax haven for the super-rich on the shores of Europe" and sign "a sweetheart trade deal with Donald Trump".
"Have no doubt, no-deal would destroy people’s jobs push up food prices in the shops and open our NHS to takeover by US private corporations," the Labour leader warned.
"That’s a price Boris Johnson is willing to pay because it won’t be him and his wealthy friends paying it - it will be you."