The new prime minister has pledged to deliver Brexit on October 31 with “no ifs or buts” and urged the EU to renegotiate the divorce deal. But it’s a demand firmly rejected by Brussels. Jeremy Stubbs told France’s Europe 1 radio “the real difference between [Mr Johnson] and Mrs May is that he appears committed to finding brutal solutions” to get Brexit done by the October 31 deadline. Although “leaving the [European Union] with a deal, and not without, remains his priority,” he insisted.
Mr Stubbs also warned that the newly elected premier was effectively “caught in a Brexit vice,” saying: “If ever the United Kingdom does not leave the bloc on October 31, he risks being discredited.”
Mr Johnson promised after his election triumph earlier this week to deliver Brexit by the October deadline “no ifs or buts,” stoking fears Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal to smooth the process.
His bet is that the threat of the economic chaos that a no-deal Brexit would trigger will convince the bloc’s leaders to agree to revise the divorce deal that Mrs May agreed last year but thrice failed to get ratified.
The former foreign secretary has also threatened to withhold the £39billion EU divorce bill and spend it instead on preparing for a no-deal scenario – a threat Mr Stubbs described as extremely “delicate”.
Using the divorce bill as an “instrument of pressure will not help create an atmosphere of cooperation,” he said.
Mr Stubbs added the solution to the Brexit problem “lies in Brussels” and Mr Johnson’s ability to forge a productive relationship with EU leaders.
But Mr Johnson has already irked the EU, urging its leaders on Thursday to “rethink” their refusal to renegotiating the current deal. His demand was immediately rejected by Brussels.
He told parliament: “I hope that the EU … will rethink their current refusal to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement.
“If they do not, we will of course have to leave the EU without an agreement.”
Mr Johnson told MPs he would reject the Irish backstop; an insurance policy designed to prevent a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland by provisionally keeping the UK in a customs union with the EU.
He said: “It must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.
“The policy is the most controversial part of the accord for lawmakers, who fear it would tie the UK to the EU’s single market rules indefinitely.”
But the bloc’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier swiftly dismissed calls to get rid of the backstop, saying that Mr Johnson’s demands were “unacceptable”.
“PM Johnson has stated that if an agreement is to be reached it goes by way of eliminating the backstop,” Mr Barnier wrote in an email to EU ambassadors.
“This is of course unacceptable and not within the mandate of the European Council.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also told Mr Johnson in a phone call that the withdrawal agreement the bloc struck with Mrs May was “the best and only” one possible.
Both sides have agreed to stay in touch.
The Brussels bloc has agreed to rewrite the non-binding political declaration on future UK-EU ties that is part of the divorce deal.