BORIS Johnson risks war with Tory hardliners after claims he could revive Theresa May’s Brexit deal – without the Irish ‘backstop’.
Threatening a Brexiteer backlash, Downing Street said the “changes we are seeking” to the EU Withdrawal Agreement related only to the Irish border insurance plan.
It came after Mr Johnson said at the G7 that the chances of a deal were improving.
And government sources claimed there had been a change in tone from the EU following Boris Johnson’s charm offensive at the G7 – with a belief the Irish backstop was no longer “sacrosanct”.
Last night the PM told European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker he “absolutely” wanted to strike an agreement in “positive and substantive” talks on the phone.
Furious Brexit Party chief Nigel Farage told the PM he faced a “political death” if he carried on with the deal – voted down three times in the Commons.
He warned: “If you insist on the Withdrawal Agreement, we will fight you in every seat up and down the country.”
And ex-Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith warned there were far more problems with Mrs May’s deal than the backstop – such as the lengthy transition period and the collaboration with the EU on defence.
But in a sign of the hardening attitudes in No.10, a senior ally of the PM said: “We know the ‘Spartans’ are going to accuse us of betrayal at some point.”
BACKSTOP ‘ABSOLUTELY’ HAS TO GO
The PM spoke with both European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and Dutch premier Mark Rutte yesterday.
A Commission spokesman said Mr Juncker “repeated his willingness to work constructively with PM Johnson and look at any concrete proposals he may have”.
Mr Johnson on Monday insisted his concerns about the backstop had “landed”. He reiterated to Mr Juncker that the backstop “absolutely” had to go.
He wants the EU to rip up the backstop plan designed to to avoid a Hard Border in Ireland because it could tie the UK to EU customs rules indefinitely.
The Sun last week revealed an alternative proposal would see Northern Ireland align purely on EU rules for farming – but leave the whole of the UK free to divulge elsewhere.
An EU diplomat said that the “energy was more positive than we expected” during Mr Johnson’s recent discussions with fellow leaders.
Mr Rutte yesterday said: “The EU27 remain open to concrete proposals compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement.”
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