Emmanuel Macron says no-deal Brexit would be UK's fault as Boris Johnson takes backstop demand to Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron has told Boris Johnson a no-deal Brexit would be "Britain's doing" as the UK Prime Minister heads to Paris to try and sell his plan to remove the Irish backstop from any deal.
French officials warned that there was not a "cigarette paper" between the positions of France and the other EU member states as German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave Mr Johnson just 30 days to come up with an alternative to the plan to avoid disruption at the Northern Ireland border.
The Prime Minister's diplomatic tour comes after he told EU leaders that the backstop arrangement is “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK” and urged them to consider replacing it with "alternative arrangements".
But, speaking to reporters in Paris ahead of a face-to-face meeting with Mr Johnson, Mr Macron warned that a "hard Brexit" would force Britain into being "junior partners" to the United States.
French officials meanwhile said a no-deal Brexit was now seen as the most likely outcome in Paris.
“Can the cost for Britain of a hard Brexit - because Britain will be the main victim - be offset by the United States of America? No," Mr Macron said.
"And even if it were a strategic choice it would be at the cost of a historic vassalisation of Britain.
“I don’t think this is what Boris Johnson wants. I don’t think it is what the British people want."
And the French President made clear that he is not open to Mr Johnson's call to axe the backstop, which Brussels sees as the only viable way to avoid new barriers between Northern Ireland and the Republic if Britain leaves the EU's single market and customs union.
"Why won’t we accept it? It’s simple: because what Boris Johnson suggests in his letter to President (Donald) Tusk is... to chose between the integrity of the single market and respecting the Good Friday Agreement," he said.
Mr Macron added: "We won’t chose between the two. We won’t jeopardise peace in Ireland, that would be one of the consequences of dropping the so-called backstop."
On the possibility of Britain now leaving the EU without a deal, Macron said: "That would be Britain’s doing, always."
The visit comes after Mr Johnson held talks over dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who gave the UK a 30-day countdown to come up with a replacement for the backstop or face a no-deal Brexit.
On his first trip abroad as Prime Minister, Mr Johnson claimed there were "abundant solutions” to the Northern Ireland border problem - but admitted the “onus is on us" to come up with a plan.
And Ms Merkel said: "If one is able to solve this conundrum, if one finds this solution, we said we would probably find it in the next two years to come but we can also maybe find it in the next 30 days to come.
"Then we are one step further in the right direction and we have to obviously put our all into this."