Published On: Tue, Aug 20th, 2019

Brexit news: Boris Johnson letter means no deal Brexit – EU | UK | News

In a letter to Donald Tusk, the European Council’s president, the Prime Minister insisted the backstop undermines the Northern Ireland peace process and Britain’s sovereignty. He called for the measure to be replaced by a commitment to “alternative arrangements” to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit. But Brussels claimed the letter was not a genuine effort to engage, but instead just another sign that Mr Johnson is committed to leaving the European Union without an agreement.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Tusk said: “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 reestablishing a hard border. Even if they do not admit it.”

Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Commission voiced its support for Mr Tusk’s comments.

EU capitals bemoaned the lack of “realistic alternatives for the backstop” in the Prime Minister’s letter.

One EU diplomat said: “Three years on and still this letter fails to put forward any realistic alternatives for the backstop.

“Hope and imagination doesn’t keep the border away.

“This letter is not a request to negotiate. It’s a clear cut attempt to avoid that at all costs.”

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson told Donald Tusk, in a letter, the backstop must be replaced for a deal (Image: PARL.TV)

A second said: “It’s clear from the letter that renegotiation is the last thing the British Government wants. Brexit started and ends with preservation of the Tory party.”

Despite the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit, Brussels remains adamant that the backstop must feature as part of any agreement.

An EU source said: “There was a two and a half year negotiating process, during which the EU has already compromised, including on the backstop.

“The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiating and the backstop is not open for change.

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“A legally operable backstop to avoid a hard border remains at the heart of the withdrawal agreement for the EU27.”

An Irish government source said: “We reject the assertion that the backstop risks weakening the Good Friday Agreement.

“The very purpose of the backstop is to maintain the status quo, by ensuring free movement and no hard border on the island of Ireland, which is central to the Good Friday Agreement.”

Mr Johnson’s letter was published hours after an hour-long phone call with Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, who insisted the EU would not reopen the divorce deal.

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Brexit timeline

Brexit timeline (Image: EXPRESS)

Despite the Brussels hardline stance, the Prime Minister declared the backstop as “inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK as a state”.

He insisted the measure keeps Britain locked in an international treaty that binds the country into a customs union with the EU and will apply “large areas of single market legislation to Northern Ireland”.

“It places a substantial regulatory border, rooted in that treaty, between Northern Ireland and Great Britain,” he wrote.

“The treaty provides no sovereign means of exiting unilaterally and affords the people of Northern Ireland no influence over the legislation that applies to them. That is what they backstop is anti-democratic.”

Mr Johnson said Britain must be free in the future to “diverge” from the EU by introducing laws to implement “world-class environmental, product and labour standards”.

He promised to develop a legally binding commitment that there would be no hard border in order to replace the backstop and make a Brexit deal possible.

“I propose that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship,” Mr Johnson wrote.

“I also recognise that there will need to be a degree of confidence about what would happen if these arrangements were not all fully in place at the end of that period.

“We are ready to look constructively and flexibly at what commitments might help, consistence of course with the principles set out in this letter.”

He concluded: “Time is very short. But the UK is ready to move quickly, and, given the degree of common ground already, I hope that the EU will be ready to do likewise.

“I am equally confident that our Parliament would be able to act rapidly if we were able to reach a satisfactory agreement which did not contain the backstop: indeed it has already demonstrated that there is a majority for an agreement on these lines.”

Mr Johnson will tomorrow meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel before heading to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the G7 summit this weekend.

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