Boris Johnson contradicts Michael Gove and insists no-deal is not the Government's 'assumption'

Posted On: 
29th July 2019

Boris Johnson has insisted the Government is not "assuming" there will be a no-deal Brexit - just a day after Michael Gove said it was.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson during the EU referendum.
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister insisted that a new withdrawal agreement can be negotiated between the UK and EU so long as Brussels agreed to ditch the Northern Ireland backstop.

But writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Gove said: "The EU’s leaders have, so far, said they will not change their approach – it’s the unreformed withdrawal agreement, take it or leave it.

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"We still hope they will change their minds, but we must operate on the assumption that they will not."

Asked during a visit to Scotland if he agreed with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster's remarks, Mr Johnson said: "No, absolutely not. My assumption is that we can get a new deal, we're aiming for a new deal.

"But Michael is absolutely right that of course it's absolutely responsible for any government to prepare for a no-deal if we absolutely have to. That's the message that I've been getting across to our European friends and I'm very confident that we'll get there."

Asked whether he still believed a no-deal Brexit was a "million to one" shot, the Prime Minister said: "It is absolutely right that we will go for a deal and there is every chance we will get a deal... Provided there is sufficient goodwill and common sense on behalf of our partners, that is exactly where I would put the odds."

Earlier, a Downing Street spokeswoman had said that Mr Johnson would not even sit down with European leaders unless they agreed to re-open the existing withdrawal agreement and ditch the backstop, which is designed to ensure an open border in Ireland in all circumstances.

She said: "He wants to meet EU to negotiate, but not to sit down and be told that the EU cannot possibly re-open the withdrawal agreement.

"The Prime Minister wants to leave with a deal and we hope that the EU will change its position on the withdrawal agreement and the backstop."