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Boris Johnson heads to Berlin for crucial meeting with Angela Merkel amid demand to scrap backstop

4 hours 5 minutes ago
Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel
Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel

Boris Johnson is set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later, as the EU rebuffed his call to scrap the backstop in a bid to secure a Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister will head to Berlin after European Council chief Donald Tusk said the UK was "not proposing realistic alternatives" to the controversial border plan and was effectively supporting the return of a hard border in Ireland.

But Ms Merkel appeared to strike a softer tone than Mr Tusk, as she said the EU would consider "practical" solutions for the Irish border after Brexit, although a key ally of the Chancellor downplayed expectations of progress in Wednesday's talks.

The Prime Minister has called the arrangement “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK”, pointing out that it has been rejected by the UK Parliament three times.

Instead he has called for talks on the border plan - which the EU argues is the only viable way to avoid a hard between Northern Ireland and the republic if talks break down - to be kicked into the next phase of Brexit negotiations.

He has has suggested replacing the backstop with "alternative arrangements".

But Mr Tusk described the PM’s letter as “misleading” and “inaccurate”.

The PM acknowledged on Tuesday night that the initial response to his demands had been "a bit negative", as he vowed to give the push to find a deal "a lot of oomph".

“I think there is a real sense now that something needs to be done with this backstop," he said.

"We can't get it through Parliament as it is. So I'm going to go at it... with a lot of oomph, as you'd expect, and I hope we'll be making some progress in the course of the next few weeks."

Mr Johnson’s pledge came as Ms Merkel said the EU was willing to consider "practical" solutions for the Irish border after Britain leaves the bloc.

But she again made clear that the withdrawal agreement thrashed out by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May will not be reopened as the UK heads for the EU exit on 31 October.

"As soon as we have a practical arrangement where we can abide by the Good Friday Agreement and also define the borders of the [EU's] single market, we won't need the backstop," the German leader said.

"That means we will, of course, think about practical solutions, and I always say that if you want to find these solutions, you can do so in a short period of time," she said.

"The European Union is ready to do this, but we don't need to open up the withdrawal agreement. It's a question of the future relationship."

'NO SIGN'

Speaking ahead of the trip, Norbert Röttgen, an ally of Ms Merkel who heads the German parliament's foreign affairs committee, told The Guardian that Mr Johnson "would have been well advised against writing" his four-page letter setting out his Brexit stance.

“The British Prime Minister starts his letter by saying he is personally committed to finding an agreement, but there is no sign in the rest of the letter that this is actually the case,” he warned.

Mr Röttgen added: "Merkel is politically and emotionally well inclined towards the British, and her willingness to maintain friendly relations between the two countries will be on display on Wednesday. But the extent to which the Johnson government is prepared to humiliate itself for a trade deal with the USA has not gone unnoticed in Berlin."

The PM's Berlin visit comes ahead of a trip to Paris on Thursday, where Mr Johnson will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson insists he will give Brexit talks 'a lot of oomph' despite EU shooting down backstop demand

15 hours 52 minutes ago
Boris Johnson
The Prime Minister said he would keep making the case to remove the backstop to Britain's "friends" in Europe.

Boris Johnson has insisted he will continue to give his push for a Brexit deal “a lot of oomph”, despite the European Union rejecting his demand to remove the Irish backstop from the existing withdrawal agreement.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that early signs from the EU had been “negative” after European Council President Donald Tusk said the UK was "not proposing realistic alternatives" to the controversial border plan and was effectively supporting the return of a hard border in Ireland.

Mr Johnson sent a four-page letter to the Council chief on Monday night, warning that the backstop - designed to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic open if talks on a future trade deal break down - was “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK”.

He instead called for talks on the border plan to be kicked into the next phase of Brexit negotiations, saying 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”.

But Mr Tusk described the PM’s letter as “misleading” and “inaccurate”.

Responding to those comments, Mr Johnson said he would continue “to make the point that the backstop's going to come out” in talks with the leaders of Germany and France  slated for Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

He told Sky News: “At the moment it is absolutely true that our friends and partners are a bit negative. I saw what Donald Tusk had to say and it, you know, wasn't redolent of... a sense of optimism. But I think, actually, we'll get there. 

“I think there is a real sense now that something needs to be done with this backstop. We can't get it through Parliament as it is. So I'm going to go at it... with a lot of oomph, as you'd expect, and I hope we'll be making some progress in the course of the next few weeks.

“But clearly one thing that slightly, I think, complicates the picture is that our EU friends still clearly think that there is a possibility that Parliament will block Brexit. 

“And as long as they think there's a possibility that Parliament will block Brexit they're unlikely to be minded to make the concessions that we need. So it's going to take a bit of patience.”

MERKEL VOWS 'PRACTICAL' SOLUTIONS

Mr Johnson’s pledge came as German chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to strike a softer tone than Mr Tusk, as she said the the EU would consider "practical" solutions for the Irish border after Brexit.

But she once more made clear that the withdrawal agreement thrashed out by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May will not be reopened as the UK heads for the EU exit on 31 October.

"As soon as we have a practical arrangement where we can abide by the Good Friday Agreement and also define the borders of the [EU's] single market, we won't need the backstop," the German leader said at a press conference in Iceland.

"That means we will, of course, think about practical solutions, and I always say that if you want to find these solutions, you can do so in a short period of time," she said.

"The European Union is ready to do this, but we don't need to open up the withdrawal agreement. It's a question of the future relationship."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Number 10 accuses EU of being unwilling to renegotiate Brexit deal after rejecting Boris Johnson letter

19 hours 21 minutes ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson's letter calling for the backstop to be ditched was rejected by the EU

Downing Street has accused the EU of being unwilling to renegotiate a Brexit deal after it rejected Boris Johnson’s call to ditch the backstop.

Donald Tusk on Tuesday accused the Prime Minister of "not proposing realistic alternatives" to the border plan and effectively supporting the return of a hard border in Ireland.

But a Number 10 spokesperson hit back at the European Council President, saying: “We are deeply invested in the peace, prosperity and security of Northern Ireland and always will be and we have been clear that we will never place infrastructure, checks, or controls at the border.”

Attacking Brussels for refusing to re-open the Withdrawal Agreement, Downing Street said “there is no prospect of a deal” unless the EU agrees to abolish the backstop.

The spokesperson added: “It has already been rejected three times by MPs and is simply unviable as a solution, as the PM’s letter makes clear.

“We are ready to negotiate, in good faith, an alternative to the backstop, with provisions to ensure that the Irish border issues are dealt with where they should always have been: in the negotiations on the future agreement between the UK and the EU.”

It comes after Mr Tusk tweeted his terse response to the PM’s four-page letter to the EU.

Mr Johnson had said despite them “showing a little bit of reluctance at the moment” he was “confident” Britain’s “friends” on the continent would agree to change the existing Brexit deal.

But 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.

CORBYN: 'WISE UP'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in response that Mr Johnson needs to “wise up and stop the nonsense” by threatening to leave without a deal on October 31

He said: “Since Donald Tusk has apparently already said to the Prime Minister there’s nothing new in that letter it’s very unclear what the Prime Minister thinks he’s negotiating.

“He needs to recognise that by just holding the threat of a no-deal Brexit on the 31st October the European Union isn’t going to bring about change, it’s going to make things much worse.

“He created this arbitrary date by his behaviour during the Tory party leadership conference, he needs to wise up and stop the nonsense for the October and start talking seriously.

“But Parliament I hope will be able to stop no-deal, we will move a motion of no confidence and I hope all other opposition parties and some Conservative MPs will recognise that if it takes that to stop no-deal well, let's do that.”

EU MEETINGS MOVE

Meanwhile the Government has announced that UK officials will stop attending "most EU meetings" from 1 September, in a move the Department for Exiting the European Union said would allow them to "focus on our future relationship with the EU and other partners around the world".

DExEU said the move reflected the fact that Britain's planned 31 October departure date was "now very close", and said British officials would now "only attend EU meetings where the UK has a significant national interest in the outcome of discussions, such as on security".

Announcing the move, Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay said: "An incredible amount of time and effort goes into EU meetings with attendance just the tip of the iceberg. Our diligent, world-class officials also spend many hours preparing for them whether in reading the necessary papers or working on briefings.

"From now on we will only go to the meetings that really matter, reducing attendance by over half and saving hundreds of hours. This will free up time for Ministers and their officials to get on with preparing for our departure on 31 October and seizing the opportunities that lie ahead."

Alain Tolhurst

Jeremy Corbyn has 'misunderstood' no-deal analysis say Tories as they reject his call to reveal it

22 hours 6 minutes ago
Jeremy Corbyn and James Cleverly
The Labour leader's call was rebuffed by the Conservative chairman.

The Government has rejected Jeremy Corbyn's call to publish its analysis of the impact of a no-deal Brexit "in full", claiming the Labour leader has "misunderstood" what it would show.

Conservative chairman James Cleverly denied the Labour leader's demand to make public "its most recent assessments" on what leaving the European Union without an agreement in place would mean for the UK.

The call came amid a bitter row over a leaked 'Operation Yellowhammer' dossier warning of disruption to fuel and food supplies, the social care system and the Irish border under such an outcome.

Mr Corbyn said the Cabinet Office documents - passed to The Sunday Times - had made "the chaos and damage that will be caused by Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit crystal clear", and claimed the Prime Minister could not "be trusted" to be  straight with the public about the effect of such an outcome.

He said: "If the Government wants to be believed that it doesn’t represent the real impact, it must publish its most recent assessments today in full."

But,asked why those assessments could not be published, Mr Cleverly told the BBC: "Because it’s an internal document for the Government. It’s not a series of predictions.

"And the fact that we’re having this conversation shows that  people misunderstand the nature of that document. I think as he does with many other things, Jeremy Corbyn has  misunderstood what this is."

Mr Cleverly, a former Brexit minister, meanwhile claimed the 'Operation Yellowhammer' files were "based based on worst case scenarios", echoing Cabinet minister Michael Gove's description of them as spelling out "the very, very worst situation".

BENN DETAIL DEMAND

The rejection of Mr Corbyn's demand came as MP Hilary Benn, chair of the cross-party Commons Brexit Select committee, called on ministers to release more information following the no-deal leak.

In a letter to Mr Gove, who is leading preparations for such no-deal Brexit across Whitehall, the senior Labour MP said the Government had "not notified industry groups about many of the risks they face" that are spelled out in the report.

Mr Gove has claimed that, since the report was drawn up, ministers have "taken steps, not just to deal with some of the risks, but also to make sure that our economy and our country are better placed than ever to leave the EU on 31 October".

But Mr Benn demanded to know "the date on which the report was drawn up, the significant steps that the Government has taken in the last three weeks, and how these have mitigated each of the risk identified and to what extent".

The Brexit committee chairman said: "I have seen reports that you intend to update the House on no-deal prepartations when the House returns... but given the urgency of these matters, I would also like you to appear before the Exiting the EU Select Committee that week to discuss the Governemnt's preparations in more detail."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

EU rejects Boris Johnson's 'not realistic' call to axe backstop from Brexit deal

22 hours 10 minutes ago
Donald Tusk
Donald Tusk has rejected Boris Johnson's letter urging for the backstop to be ditched

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."

'ANTI-DEMOCRATIC'

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.”

Alain Tolhurst

Pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to ditch Labour Brexit deal as two closest allies back Remain in any circumstances

1 day ago
Two of his Jeremy Corbyn's closest allies say they will back remain regardless of the other option in a second referendum

Pressure is mounting on Jeremy Corbyn to ditch Labour’s policy of getting a new Brexit deal as two of his closest allies said they want to stay in the EU whatever the circumstances.

Diane Abbott said she and John McDonnell will “personally be campaigning for Remain” if there is another referendum.

She confirmed this will be the case even if the other option on the ballot paper is a Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by their own party leader.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Shadow Home Secretary said staying in the bloc was the "best option for the country and for my constituents".

She said: "We are, of course, the party's committed to a referendum now and Jeremy's (Corbyn) made that clear and if there is a referendum and if Remain is on the ballot paper and there's every expectation it will be, I - like John McDonnell - personally will be campaigning for Remain."

Mr McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, had told the same programme yesterday: “I think generally people want to provide the electorate with a choice.

“I’ve made it clear from my personal position that I’ll be campaigning for Remain. I think that’s the best choice.

“But people will want to have a say and see whether there is another option. But we’ve had that debate in Parliament and that’s why I’ve come down in favour of Remain, because I can’t see one that will have the same benefits as Remain.”

Afterwards Ms Abbott tweeted: “Great interview by John McDonnell on Brexit. He says when there is a Brexit referendum he will campaign for Remain. So will I.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry replied to her by tweeting: “And so will I Diane.”

After Mr Corbyn, the three of them are the most senior members of the Shadow Cabinet and their stance, which goes beyond the official party position, will increase pressure on the Labour leader ahead of a potential election campaign.

The party has previously indicated if there was a second referendum while they were still in opposition they would back Remain over a “Tory Brexit deal”.

But last month, Mr Corbyn wrote to members saying Labour’s plan for a compromise deal with Brussels remains their official policy if they got into power themselves.

The Labour leader said: “We continue to believe this is a sensible alternative that could bring the country together.”

And asked at a speech in Corby on Monday if that was still the plan, he said: “In a general election, we will put forward the opportunity for people in this country to have the final say.

“It is not a rerun of 2016. It is simply saying the people of this country should make the final decision.

“If it is no deal versus Remain then obviously John McDonnell and others made it very clear we would support Remain.

“If there is the opportunity for some other option to be put then that will be put. I want to bring people together.”

Ms Abbott said Labour woud "come to a democratic decision" on Brexit.

But she said of Mr Corbyn: "He can't stay to the side on an issue like this - what he can do is bring the two sides together.

"The party and the shadow cabinet will have to debate this and arrive at a position - whatever the position is Jeremy will follow what the party says."

Alain Tolhurst

Top US Democrat says Congress could block UK trade deal if Brexit threatens 'precious' Good Friday Agreement

1 day 3 hours ago
Boris Johnson and Donald Trump
Boris Johnson and Donald Trump discussed Brexit and trade in a phone call on Monday.

A senior US politician has warned Donald Trump’s administration that a future trade deal between Britain and the US could be blocked if the "precious" Good Friday peace agreement is threatened by Brexit.

In a strongly-worded letter also sent to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused the Trump White House of “over-promising an unconditional and unrealistic” post-Brexit trade tie-up with the UK.

And the senior Democrat told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Congress could block any plan that tried to "shirk" America's historic role in maintaining peace in Northern Ireland.

The intervention follows similar warnings from US House of Representatives’ speaker Nancy Pelosi, and comes after senior Trump aide John Bolton insisted Britain would be "first in line" for a trade deal with the United States after Brexit.

Mr Schumer said: "While Britain is a unique and valued ally of our nation, as the Democratic Leader of the United States Senate, which would consider prospective new bilateral trade agreements, I write to express my inveterate opposition to any prospective trade deal with UK that either undermines the landmark Good Friday Agreement or facilitates a return to a hard border."

The Senate minority leader urged those involved in the Brexit process to "reflect on the hate, violence, injustice, lawlessness and societal upheaval" of The Troubles, as well as the "extraordinary transformation ushered in by the Good Friday Agreement", in which American played a "proud role" and "remains a vital guarantor" of.

He added: "The free and demilitarised border on the island of Ireland between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is one of the precious products of that framework.

"Currently, upwards of 35,000 people commute daily over this now-invisible line that was once covered with razor wire and armoured cars. This radical change has unleashed significant economic energy and facilitated deep societal interconnection.

"It is not surprising, then, that 56% of the people of Northern Ireland voted against Brexit.

"The Good Friday Agreement is a towering achievement of diplomacy and it planted the seeds of a society based on mutual respect and equality, rather than one based on distrust and discrimination."

Mr Schumer said: "The notion that America would now endorse a policy or agreement that undermines the success of the Good Friday Agreement is profoundly counterproductive and risks exacerbating sectarian polarisation and eroding self-determination - and unleashing the potential for violence that comes with that reality. This cannot be allowed to happen.

"Plainly stated, America should not be in the business of handing out a blank cheque that bankrupts the peace, security, self-determination and shared prosperity precipitated by the Good Friday Agreement.

"America's policy should be to realise the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement, not to erode it or entertain the possibility of a return of a hard border or direct rule."

'MOVE RAPIDLY'

The intervention came as President Trump said he had discussed moving "rapidly on a US-UK free trade deal" in a call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The US commander-in-chief tweeted: "Great discussion with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson today. We talked about Brexit and how we can move rapidly on a US-UK free trade deal."

The pair will meet at the G7 summit in France later this week, and Downing Street said they had "discussed economic issues and our trading relationship", while Mr Johnson also "updated the President on Brexit".

Number 10 added: "The leaders looked forward to seeing each other at the Summit this weekend."

A White House spokesperson said: "The President expressed great enthusiasm for his upcoming meeting with the Prime Minister at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Jeremy Corbyn urges Boris Johnson to reveal 'full' no-deal Brexit analysis amid leak row

1 day 11 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn
The Labour leader said the PM could not be "trusted" on no-deal.

Jeremy Corbyn has called on Boris Johnson to publish Whitehall's analysis of the impact of a no-deal Brexit "in full".

The Labour leader said the Prime Minister "can't be trusted" after ministers downplayed a leaked Cabinet Office dossier warning of potential disruption to food and fuel supplies if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Mr Johnson on Monday acknowledged there would be "bumps in the road" if Britain left the EU without a deal on 31 October, but he said he had "no doubt" that Britain could be ready for such an outcome.

The 'Operation Yellowhammer' documents - reportedly drawn up this month and now at the centre of a bitter leak row after they were passed to The Sunday Times - included warnings that Britain's social care system could struggle to cope with rising inflation and outlined of months of possible disruption at UK ports.

But Mr Corbyn said the dossier had made "the chaos and damage that will be caused by Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit crystal clear".

Speaking ahead of trip to Stevenage to meet businesses, the Labour leader added: "If the Government wants to be believed that it doesn’t represent the real impact, it must publish its most recent assessments today in full. 

"Boris Johnson’s denials can’t be trusted, and will do nothing to give businesses or consumers any confidence that the dire state of affairs described in these documents aren’t right around the corner." 

And he argued: "What we know for sure is that this government is wilfully committed to a policy that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet know will destroy jobs, push up food prices in the shops and open up our NHS to a takeover by US private companies.

"That is a price that Boris Johnson is willing to pay because it won’t be him and his wealthy donors who pay it – it will be the rest of us."

The leak of the 'Operation Yellowhammer' documents has already sparked anger in Number 10, with a source pointing the finger at disgruntled members of the previous government.

"It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders," they claimed.

"Those obstructing preparation are no longer in Government, £2 billion of extra funding has already made available and Whitehall has been stood up to actually do the work through the daily ministerial meetings."

Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister leading the Government's efforts to plan for a no-deal outcome, meanwhile said the files were "an attempt in the past to work out what the very, very worst situation would be, so we could take steps to mitigate that".

'ENERGY'

Mr Corbyn's call for the Government's no-deal impact assessments to be made public came as Mr Johnson told European Council President Donald Tusk that the UK would still work with "energy and determination" to achieve an agreement with the EU.

But he told the EU Council chief that the Irish backstop in the current withdrawal agreement must be "replaced" if MPs are to get behind a Brexit deal before 31 October.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson tells EU Brexit backstop must be 'replaced' as he warns 'time is very short'

1 day 12 hours ago
Boris Johnson and Donald Tusk
The Prime Minister told European Council President Donald Tusk that the UK Parliament would 'act rapidly if we were able to reach a satisfactory agreement'.

Boris Johnson has told the European Union that the Irish backstop must be "replaced" if MPs are to get behind a Brexit deal before 31 October.

In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk ahead of trips to Paris and Berlin this week, the Prime Minister said time was now "very short" as he vowed that the UK would work with "energy and determination" to achieve an agreement with the EU.

But he branded the backstop - which was included in the deal to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic if the next phase of talks between the UK and the EU break down - “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK”.

The letter to Mr Tusk marks the first time the UK's new Prime Minister has formally spelled the changes he wants made to the withdrawal agreement thrashed out by his predecessor Theresa May.

The EU has so far rejected calls to reopen the deal, with European leaders arguing that it represents the only way to preserve an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if Britain stays committed to leaving the customs union and single market.

But, in his letter, Mr Johnson said problems with the arrangement run "much deeper than the simple political reality that it has three times been rejected by the House of Commons".

"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," the Prime Minister warned.

He said: "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."

'DELICATE BALANCE'

Mr Johnson also attacked the arrangement as "inconsistent" with Britain's post-Brexit plans, arguing that while the UK Government wants to stay "committed to world-class environment, product and labour standards" after Brexit, the backstop - if triggered - will stop Britain being able to "diverge" from European law in the future.

"That is the point of our exit and our ability to enable this is central to our future democracy," the Prime Minister added.

Warning that the backstop "risks weakening the delicate balance" struck by the Good Friday peace agreement - a key concern of the DUP, who the Government continues to rely on for support in the Commons - Mr Johnson said: "While I appreciate the laudable intentions with which the backstop was designed, by removing control of such large areas of the commercial and economic life of Northern Ireland to an external body over which the people of Northern Ireland have no democratic control, this balance risks being undermined."

Instead, Mr Johnson said Britain would be ready to offer the EU a "legally binding commitment" to avoid introducing new "infrastructure, checks, or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland", and urged European leaders to accept plans for so-called "alternative arrangements" at the border to replace the backstop.

"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," the PM wrote.

'CONFIDENT'

Arguing that MPs could get behind a deal if his demands were met, Mr Johnson said: "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."

The letter to Mr Tusk comes ahead of two crucial visits to European capitals this week, with the Prime Minister set to 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.

Speaking earlier on Monday, Mr Johnson said he was “confident” Britain’s “friends” in the EU would agree to change the existing Brexit deal, amid intense focus on Whitehall's preparations for a potential no-deal outcome on 31 October.

"I want a deal," he told Sky News.

"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.”

But Labour's Jeremy Corbyn accused the PM of "driving the country towards a no-deal cliff edge".

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

EU citizens to face ‘tougher criminality rules’ entering UK the day after a no-deal Brexit, say No10

1 day 18 hours ago
border checks
Downing Street said there will be tougher security checks at the border after October 31

EU citizens entering Britain will face “tougher criminality rules” the day after a no-deal Brexit, Number 10 have revealed.

It came as Downing Street confirmed freedom of movement “as it currently stands” will end on October 31st.

But campaigners said this risked a “large-scale Windrush scandal” as they accused Home Secretary Priti Patel of “setting fire to the British economy”.

It came after reports Ms Patel is said to want to shift from the position of her predecessor Sajid Javid and see border restrictions be imposed immediately after the UK exits the European Union.

Asked whether this was now Government policy, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson told a briefing: "Freedom of movement, as it currently stands, will end on October 31st when the UK leaves the EU.

“For example we will introduce immediately much tougher criminality rules for people entering the UK.”

They added: “Details of other changes immediately on October 31 for a new immigration system are currently being developed.

“The Prime Minister has obviously been clear that we want to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system."

Asked about the issue on a visit to Cornwall, Boris Johnson said the UK would not "become remotely hostile to immigration or immigrants".

The PM added that "immigration into the UK will be democratically controlled."

His spokesperson had confirmed the settlement scheme for EU citizens brought in by Theresa May would not be altered, meaning those with the right to permanent residence in the UK will still have until December 2020 to get their applications to stay approved.

But Maike Bohn, co-founder of the 3million campaign which represents EU citizens, hit out at plans for tougher criminal checks.

She told PoliticsHome: “This government is shamefully linking EU citizens to criminality at every turn.

“We demand that the PM delivers on his promises to EU immigrants rather than creating the toxic soil for a large-scale Windrush scandal by treating us as ‘guilty until proven innocent’."

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Sir Ed Davey told the BBC ending free movement on November 1 was “chaos gone mad”.

The former Cabinet minister said: “Priti Patel is almost setting fire to the British economy and British public services."

He added: "This new measure could inflict dramatic damage to our health service, to our schools, to our whole economy.

"This is not a way to govern. It's the most irresponsible, reckless form of government I think anyone has ever seen."

But a Home Office spokesperson told the Independent: “The Home Secretary has been clear in her intention to take back control of our borders and end free movement after 31 October.

“Ending free movement means we are no longer required to give unlimited and uncontrolled access to those from EU countries when they are coming here seeking to work.”

Alain Tolhurst

Boris Johnson ‘confident’ EU will agree Brexit changes ahead of crunch meetings with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

1 day 20 hours ago
Boris Johnson
The Prime Minister said he stood “ready to work with our friends and partners” to get a deal.

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."

'CLIFF EDGE'

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."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Number 10 rejects MPs’ demands to recall Parliament over no-deal Brexit fears

1 day 20 hours ago
House of Commons
Boris Johnson has refused demands to recall Parliament ahead of schedule

Number 10 has rejected MPs’ demands to recall Parliament over growing concerns about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Downing Street dismissed the plea to cut short parliament’s summer recess as Jeremy Corbyn threw his weight behind the bid to block a no-deal Brexit.

Over 100 MPs had written to the Prime Minister asking for Parliament to be recalled ahead of the scheduled 3 September date as they accused him of dodging scrutiny and warned the country stood on “the brink of an economic crisis”.

But a Downing Street spokesperson shrugged off the demand, saying the current recess timeline had already been approved by MPs.

“I’d just like to point out that the House of Commons agreed the date it would rise for summer recess, as well as its return on September 3, and this was passed by a majority close to 200 MPs," they said.

Signed by members of every political party in the House of Commons excluding the DUP, the letter said reconvening parliament was crucial to allow “scrutiny” of the government’s no-deal preparations.

And the plans received a boost on Monday after Jeremy Corbyn said his party would support the bid following the publication of a leaked Whitehall dossier which forecast food and medicine shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“I think there is support for preventing this country going into a no-deal Brexit as the response to the Yellowhammer document that was leaked yesterday indicates,” he said.

“We do support the recall of Parliament in order to prevent the Prime Minister having some kind of manoeuvre to take us out on 31 October without any further discussion in Parliament.”

But Number 10 said the growing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit did not warrant MPs returning early to the Commons.

“I just say that people gave their instruction to Parliament in the EU referendum, and Parliament then voted to trigger to Article 50, It also passed the Withdrawal Act," they said.

"The Prime Minister was clear that we’re leaving on October 31, and that is what the Government is focused on.”

John Johnston

Priti Patel 'wants EU free movement to end on 31 October' under a no-deal Brexit

2 days 3 hours ago
UK border inspection
Priti Patel is said to want 'to toughen the Home Office's stance', in a move that could mean fresh border checks for EU nationals.

Priti Patel is pushing for freedom of movement by European nationals into the UK to end on 31 October under a no-deal Brexit, it has been reported.

Both The Telegraph and The Independent report that the new Home Secretary wants border restrictions to be imposed immediately after Britain leaves the European Union if no agreement can be struck with the bloc.

The move would represent a major shift from the position of her predecessor, Sajid Javid, who had held back the government bill that would have brought free movement to an end amid fears of a Commons defeat.

But a Home Office source said: "Priti wants to toughen the Home Office's stance.

"She thinks Saj did a great job but with a new Prime Minister and new priorities changes needed to be made. 

"For a start that means properly preparing for no deal, it's clear those in the centre had no intention of preparing for no deal."

Ms Patel is said to believe that the immigration shake-up can be brought in through secondary legislation, a move that would allow her to effectively sideline MPs who might try to torpedo the Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination Bill.

A source told The Telegraph that officials have been dispatched to Singapore to "understand how a well functioning immigration IT system is developed", including how to "count people in and out the country".

But the plans have already attracted anger from the Liberal Democrats.

The party's home affairs spokesperson Sir Ed Davey said: "It is completely detached from reality and is next chapter in the never-ending saga of the utter mess they are making of Brexit.

"What would this mean for EU citizens who have made their home in the UK who have" travelled abroad when they try to return?"

The Lib Dem MP added: Are the government seriously suggesting an NHS nurse who is an EU national may not be allowed to return to the country if they happen to have been on holiday? It is absurd."

Nicolas Hatton of the3million campaign group for EU citizens living in Britain meanwhile told The Independent: "There are no systems in place and nothing is ready. This is a political gesture, but it will have a real impact on people’s lives.

"This will open the door to discrimination. How will they distinguish between the ‘legacy people’, those already here, and those who will arrive afterwards?"

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Jeremy Corbyn accuses Boris Johnson of Donald Trump-style 'lurch to the hard right' as he makes election pitch

2 days 3 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson
Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson.

Jeremy Corbyn will accuse Boris Johnson of making a "lurch to the hard right" as he talks up Labour's chances in a general election on a visit to a key marginal seat.

Speaking on a trip to a children's centre in the Conservative-held seat of Corby, the Labour leader will insist that only his party can "deliver the change that’s needed" if a snap general election comes in the autumn.

The pitch comes after Mr Corbyn urged fellow opposition parties and Conservative rebels to back a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson and then support a "time-limited" Labour government that would extend the Brexit process and call a general election.

The Labour leader - whose offer has been given a frosty reception by both the Liberal Democrats and Tory MPs - will say his party will do "everything" it can to stop Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

Mr Corbyn will say: "The Conservative Party’s failure on Brexit, and its lurch to the hard right, has provoked the crisis our country faces this autumn. 

"After failing to negotiate a Brexit deal that would protect jobs and living standards, Boris Johnson’s Tories are driving the country towards a no-deal cliff edge. 

"We will do everything necessary to stop a disastrous no-deal, for which this government has no mandate. Boris Johnson’s government wants to use no-deal to create a tax haven for the super-rich on the shores of Europe and sign a sweetheart trade deal with Donald Trump: not so much a no-deal Brexit as a Trump Deal Brexit."

Mr Corbyn will meanwhile double down on his call to put Brexit "back to the people" through a fresh referendum, saying that Labour would "commit to holding a public vote, to give voters the final say" if an election is held in the autumn.

And he will say Labour's agenda represents "a once-in-a-generation chance for a real change of direction, potentially on the scale of 1945 or 1979", when elections ushered in Clement Attlee at Margaret Thatcher respectively.

Hitting out at the Prime Minister, he will add: "The Tories have lurched to the hard right under Boris Johnson, Britain’s Trump, the fake populist and phoney outsider, funded by the hedge funds and bankers, committed to protecting the vested interests of the richest and the elites, while posing as anti-establishment."

But Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly hit back, saying Mr Corbyn had done "all he can to frustrate delivering on the referendum result".

"This is a cynical attempt to seize power by a man who would wreck the economy, is soft on crime and won't stand up for Britain. All Jeremy Corbyn offers is more dither and delay," he added.

"Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives can provide the leadership Britain needs and deliver Brexit by 31 October, whatever happens."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Michael Gove says no-deal Brexit will cause 'bumps in the road' as Number 10 blasts leak of Whitehall plan

2 days 4 hours ago
Operation Stack - Brexit port preparations
The documents on Whitehall's 'Operation Yellowhammer' warned of gridlock at UK ports.

Michael Gove has admitted that a no-deal Brexit will cause "bumps in the road", as Downing Street accused disgruntled former ministers of leaking a Whitehall plan to deal with the fallout.

Mr Gove - who is heading up no-deal preparations for the Government - suggested the 'Operation Yellowhammer' documents obtained by The Sunday Times were outdated and spelled out only "the very, very worst situation".

Boris Johnson's team meanwhile accused Remain-backing ex-ministers of "deliberately leaking" the dossier, which 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.

The Cabinet Office documents - marked 'Official Sensitive' and reportedly prepared earlier this month - shed light on the Government's contingency plans for a no-deal.

The file warns that efforts to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland are likely to prove "unsustainable" in such a scenario, with fears of "direct action" and road blockades.

Meanwhile the dossier says that ministers' own plans to slash import tariffs to 0% under a no-deal could "inadvertently" lead to the closure of two British oil refineries.

Traffic disruption caused by border delays could also "affect fuel distribution" and disrupt the supply to London and the south-east.

The fresh supply of food will also "decrease" under a no-deal Brexit, the documents say.

However, Mr Gove said: "It's certainly the case there will be some bumps in the road, some element of disruption in the event of no-deal.

"But the document that has appeared in the Sunday Times was an attempt in the past to work out what the very, very worst situation would be, so we could take steps to mitigate that.

"And we have taken steps, not just to deal with some of the risks, but also to make sure that our economy and our country are better placed than ever to leave the EU on 31 October."

That echoes the view of Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, who on Sunday dismissed the reports as "scaremongering".

Meanwhile a Number 10 source pointed the finger at a group of former ministers who have spoken out against a no-deal Brexit. The group includes ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond and his Cabinet colleague David Gauke.

The source said: "It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders.

"Those obstructing preparation are no longer in Government, £2 billion of extra funding has already made available and Whitehall has been stood up to actually do the work through the daily ministerial meetings.

"The entire posture of Government has changed."

But a spokesman for Mr Hammond denied being behind the leak, telling the Daily Telegraph: "It was absolutely not him."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Minister dismisses Government’s own Brexit no-deal warnings as 'scaremongering' after leak

2 days 23 hours ago
Kwasi Kwarteng
Kwasi Kwarteng hit out at 'Project Fear'.

Kwasi Kwarteng has dismissed the Government’s own dire warnings about a no-deal Brexit as “scaremongering”.

The business minister said “a lot of people are playing into Project Fear” after the leak of the a batch of files on the Cabinet Office’s Operation Yellowhammer preparations for a no-deal outcome.

He was speaking after the Sunday Times published a series of official Whitehall documents revealing Britain would face shortages of food, fuel and medicine as well as a hard border with Ireland if it left the EU with no agreement in place.

The dossier warns months of border delays could disrupt key supplies to the UK, while social care providers - who would be hit by rising staffing and supply costs - could face a raft a closures.

But appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Kwarteng said: "I think there's a lot of scaremongering around and a lot of people are playing into Project Fear and all the rest of it. 

"We've got to prepare for no-deal. In fact, the previous Prime Minister created DExEU and she said that the mandate of DExEU last year was to prepare for no-deal. I was working in the department. That's what we were focused on.

“Now we've got a new prime minister who is very much focused on that and the scale and the intensity of those preparations are increasing and we will be fully prepared to leave without a deal on 31 October."

The Yellowhammer documents also warn that efforts to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland are likely to prove "unsustainable" in a no-deal scenario, with warnings of "direct action" and road blockades.

While it says there will be "no new checks, with limited exceptions" on the border, it warns of "significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks" that would make it difficult to keep it open.

The document leak was seized on by the Liberal Democrats, with the party's Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake saying it "reveals the truth of a no-deal".

"It would have wartime implications, in peacetime, all of them self-inflicted," he added.

"People will be horrified that Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are willing to pursue a plan that will lead to shortages of medicines, food and fuel.

“This is a far cry from the promises Boris Johnson made in the referendum campaign."

Meanwhile Shadow Labour minister Laura Piddock said the reports were not about "about catastrophising or scaremongering".

She told Sky News: "They are saying, in reality, these are the things that could happen if no-deal was enabled.

"Boris Johnson is willing to allow that happen. Because he is completely shielded and the people that he represents are completely shielded from the effects of a no-deal Brexit."

Alain Tolhurst

Leaked Whitehall dossier reveals fuel shortages and Irish hard border 'likely' under no-deal Brexit

3 days 1 hour ago
An anti Brexit sign in the village of Jonesborough, on the border between Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland and Newry in Northern Ireland.
An anti Brexit sign in the village of Jonesborough, on the border between Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland and Newry in Northern Ireland.

Britain would face shortages of food, fuel and medicine as well as a hard border with Ireland if it leaves the European Union without a deal in October, a leaked batch of official government documents has revealed.

A Cabinet Office dossier obtained by The Sunday Times warns months of border delays could disrupt key supplies to the UK, while social care providers - who would be hit by rising staffing and supply costs - could face a raft a closures.

The paper has published a series of 'Operation Yellowhammer' documents, prepared earlier this month, which shed light on Whitehall's contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit.

The file warns that efforts to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland are likely to prove "unsustainable" in such a scenario, with warnings of "direct action" and road blockades.

While it says there will be "no new checks, with limited exceptions" on the border, it warns of "significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks" that would make it difficult to keep it open.

The documents say:  "Disruption to key sectors and job losses are likely to result in protests and direct action with road blockages."

Meanwhile the dossier warns Government plans to slash import tariffs to 0% under a no-deal may "inadvertently" lead to the closure of two British oil refineries which would bear "significant financial losses".

Traffic disruption caused by border delays could also "affect fuel distribution" and disrupt the supply to London and the south-east.

The fresh supply of food will also "decrease" under a no-deal Brexit, the documents say, while there are concerns complex food production and packaging could be hit by new barriers to trade.

The Yellowhammer dossier predicts Britain's social care system will struggle to cope with an increase in inflation, which officials say would ramp up staffing and supply costs "and may lead to provider failure, with smaller providers impacted within two-three months and large providers four-six months after exit".

A senior Whitehall source told The Sunday Times: "This is not Project Fear - this is the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal. These are likely, basic, reasonable scenarios - not the worst case."

The leak was seized on by the Liberal Democrats, while party's Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake saying it "reveals the truth of a no-deal Brexit".

"It would have wartime implications, in peacetime, all of them self-inflicted," he added.

"People will be horrified that Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are willing to pursue a plan that will lead to shortages of medicines, food and fuel. This is a far cry from the promises Boris Johnson made in the referendum campaign."

Meanwhile Shadow Labour minister Laura Piddock said the reports were not about "about catastrophising or scaremongering".

She told Sky News' Sophy Ridge show: "They are saying, in reality, these are the things that could happen if no-deal was enabled.

"Boris Johnson is willing to allow that happen. Because he is completely shielded and the people that he represents are completely shielded from the effects of a no-deal Brexit."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson accuses Tory Brexit rebels of 'gravely damaging' national interest as he blames them for no-deal

3 days 2 hours ago
Boris Johnson
The Prime Minister said it was "plain as a pikestaff" that EU leaders would "simply not compromise" if MPs continued to talk about stopping no-deal.

Boris Johnson has accused Conservative Brexit rebels of "gravely damaging" the national interest and making it more likely that Britain will leave the European Union without a deal.

The Prime Minister said it was "plain as a pikestaff" that EU leaders would "simply not compromise" and agree a favourable deal if Tory MPs openly discussed stopping a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

The warning, in a letter leaked to the Mail on Sunday, will be seen as a thinly-veiled attack on former Chancellor Philip Hammond, who this week said he was "very confident" the Commons would come up with a way to stop the Government leaving the EU without an agreement in place on Hallowe'en.

Mr Hammond has warned such a scenario would represent a "betrayal" of the 2016 referendum result, and has accused "unelected" advisers to Mr Johnson of pushing him into a more hardline stance since taking office.

But Mr Johnson hit back, writing in his letter that "any such Parliamentary campaign, any tricks of procedure or alliance of factions designed to derail Brexit, gravely damages the chances of our securing a deal".

He said: "The EU can see the public debate among Parliamentarians and they have been told privately by some British politicians that Parliament will frustrate our exit on 31 October. 

"Some of you have said publicly that you are determined to try to stop us leaving the EU on that date if we cannot secure a deal."

The Prime Minister added: "It is as plain as a pikestaff that Brussels – or the EU 27 – will simply not compromise as long as they believe there is the faintest possibility that Parliament can block Brexit on 31 October."

Mr Johnson meanwhile claimed "so-called efforts to prevent No Deal are in fact making No Deal more likely".

MORDAUNT 'MUTINY' WARNING

That message was echoed by former Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt, who used a piece in The Sunday Telegraph to hit out at Jeremy Corbyn's call for Conservative rebels and other opposition parties to  back him as head of short-lived unity government aimed at extending Article 50 and then calling an election.

Mr Corbyn on Sunday urged MPs to get behind the proposal "before it’s too late".

But, dismissing the plan as a "Government of National Mutiny", Ms Mordaunt warned colleagues to put an end to "silly season" and "apply all your efforts in the coming weeks to securing a deal".

And, in a direct attack on members of the government she served in, the former Defence Secretary wrote: "The actions of some in the previous government will soon be known: the unhelpful spin; the briefing to members of foreign governments that our attempts to leave were just theatre and the crisis mere artifice; the good work done by the civil service to prepare for no deal being hidden from the public and key decision takers."

The interventions came as The Sunday Telegraph reported that Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has now signed the "commencement order" which will trigger the end of the supremacy of EU law in the UK on 31 October. 

The move, which would formally repeal the 1972 European Communities Act on Halowe'en and bring the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 into force, has been described as "absolutely totemic" by leading Brexiteer Steve Baker.

The European Research Group chair told The Sun on Sunday: "It’s the do-or-die pledge in black and white. It’s not merely symbolic. Once it’s signed that’s it, the UK is leaving."

Downing Street sources meanwhile said the Prime Minister would use talks with French and German leaders Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel next week to insist that MPs cannot stop a no-deal Brexit. 

Mr Johnson will reportedly tell EU leaders during a two-day trip to attend the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, that "there must be a new deal to replace the failed Brussels deal" but that Britain is willing to leave without an agreement on 31 October if one cannot be struck.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson set to meet Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron as Brexit showdown looms

4 days 1 hour ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson will meet Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron to discuss the Irish backstop next week.

Boris Johnson will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz. 

The Prime Minsiter is set to go to Paris and Berlin respectively to meet both leaders, with the visit being his first time meeting either leader since entering Number 10.

Mr Johnson is likely to repeat his demand the EU scrap the Irish backstop from the current Brexit withdrawal agreement, with leaked German government documents anticipating the Prime Minister will use the summit to create a “big moment” in order to secure a breakthrough. 

But the documents, which were leaked to the German Handelsblatt newspaper, say that even if the backstop were to be removed, there would be no guarantee that British MPs would approve the Withdrawal Agreement.

They also admit it is “currently unforeseeable that Prime Minister Johnson will change his tough negotiating position”. 

"In view of this, it is important from the EU perspective to stick to the previous line," the documents say.

The leaked document also indicates that the EU’s no-deal preparations are largely complete, with the German government already having passed fifty laws and measures to mitigate a disorderly Brexit.

The Finance Ministry lists transitional agreements in tax and finance between the UK and Germany in case of a no-deal Brexit, including agreements such as that between the German financial regulator Bafin and its British counterpart FCA on cross-border financial services.

The document claims the European Commission is not planning any further emergency measures in advance of a potential no-deal exit. 

Tory MP Alberto Costa has meanhile warned Mr Johnson that he is risking a “Windrush writ large" for European citizens if a no-deal exit comes to fruition.

The backbencher has written to Home Office minister Brandon Lewis, arguing that the Governemnt's current settled status scheme is inadequate. 

Warning Mr Johnson against pursuing a no-deal Brexit, he repeated the Prime Minister’s earlier comments about a no-deal exit being unlikely. 

“The best option is to bring back Theresa May’s deal because there are now more Labour MPs willing to vote for it," Mr Costa said.

"That is the only way out of this conundrum...I take the prime minister’s word that it is a million-to-one chance that we will leave with no deal.

"So I signed [Phillip Hammond’s anti-no deal] letter as a polite reminder. The numbers in the House of Commons against no deal do not look good for Boris. The best way out is to vote for a deal.”

European diplomats told BuzzFeed News that Mr Johnson's EU trips would be announced next week.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

EXCL Number 10 urged to make it 'abundantly clear' Tory no-deal Brexit rebel Guto Bebb will lose whip

4 days 18 hours ago
Peter Bone, Boris Johnson, Guto Bebb
Peter Bone, Boris Johnson and Guto Bebb.

Downing Street has been urged to make it "abundantly clear" that any Tory MP who backs Jeremy Corbyn to thwart a no-deal Brexit will be kicked out of the party amid calls for rebel Guto Bebb to lose the whip.

Brexiteer Tories told PoliticsHome that Number 10 needed to act "swiftly and permanently" against colleagues considering the Labour leader's plea to a back him as head of "strictly time-limited" government which would extend Article 50 and trigger an election.

The interventions came amid mounting pressure on party bosses to act against former minister Mr Bebb, after he called on no-deal opponents to "seriously" consider Mr Corbyn's offer.

The former defence minister on Thursday said a short-term government led by Mr Corbyn would be “less damaging” than "the generational damage" of leaving the European Union with a deal.

But that triggered an angry response from longstanding Eurosceptic MPs Peter Bone and Nigel Evans.

Mr Bone said: "Boris Johnson was elected as leader of the Conservative Party with two thirds of the members supporting him.

"He promised to take the country out of the EU by 31 October, come what may. It is the duty of Conservative MPs to support the Prime Minister in this endeavour."

The Wellingborough MP added: "Whilst the Conservative Party has always been a broad church, with varied opinions, it has always been united in its determination to keep a Conservative government in power.

"If Guto Bebb, or any other Conservative MPs,  work with Jeremy Corbyn or other opposition leaders to bring down the Conservative government, or worse still, allow the opposition to take over the order paper and thereby instigating an alternative government, they must lose the whip and be expelled from the Conservative Party."

And he said: "Number 10 must make it abundantly clear that this will happen swiftly and permanently if they cross this line."

Fellow Brexiteer Nigel Evans meanwhile pointed out that former Tory MP Rupert Allason had had the whip removed "for a considerable amount" of time after he accidentally missed a 1993 vote of no confidence in then-Prime Minister Sir John Major.

"Now if that happened under John Major, I am sure that there should be some consistency here," he told PoliticsHome.

The Ribble Valley MP added: "I've known Guto for a long while. His constituents voted for him in 2017 to deliver two things: one was to deliver Brexit and the other one was to stop Jeremy Corbyn. It seems as if now Guto wants to stop Brexit and put in Jeremy Corbyn to do so.

"That is clearly absurd, and I think the chief whip has got to make it absolutely known to all of these people who seem to be talking to Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson and other people that they should be listening to the 17.4 million people - many of whom were their own constituents - who want us to get out of the European Union...

"At what stage are they going to accept democracy? My own view is quite simply this: if they dare to try and undermine the premiership of Boris Johnson by even comtemplating voting for Jeremy Corbyn then they should lose the whip, absolutely."

'DISENGAGED'

The calls came as Lee Canning, deputy chair of the Welsh Conservatives, urged party bosses to move within "days" to decide Mr Bebb's fate in the Tories, as he claimed the Aberconwy MP had become "disengaged" from local activists.

"It's well known that the Prime Minister is at a mathematical disadvantage and to remove the whip would lead to the loss of our majority, but party members in the past have had their membership revoked for supporting an opposing political party," he told PoliticsHome.

The senior Conservative added: "Mr Bebb does not reflect the views of his association, has become disengaged from the local Conservative Association and is quite selfishly trying to hold the Government to ransom.

"Over the next few days the party centrally will have to decide is now time to ask Mr Bebb to leave.

"I am thankful that the local Conservative Assocation are committed to the Prime Minister's plan to leave the EU."

Bernard Gentry, deputy chairman of the North Wales Association, which encompasses Aberconwy Conservatives, meanwhile said: "We would much prefer him to change his mind and support the Conservative Government he was elected part of. Residents in Aberconwy did not vote Conservative in 2017 to have Jeremy Corbyn put into Number 10."

He added: "It is incompatible for any Conservative MP to vote against the party in a motion of no confidence and retain the Conservative whip.

"If he votes against in a no confidence motion then it will have to be withdrawn - same for any Conservative MP."

Mr Bebb - who resigned from the Government last year over Theresa May's EU strategy - announced in July that he would not be standing again for the Conservatives, accusing the party of trying to "appeal to the extremes".

"Despite everything I don’t believe I’m an English nationalist, and what is becoming increasingly clear to me is that the Conservative party appeals to that type of nationalism like that that has seen Ukip’s growth in the past and the Brexit party’s growth recently," he told BBC Radio Cymru.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47