EU rejects Johnson's demand to scrap Irish backstop

Katie Ramirez
August 20, 2019

"Even if they do not recognize it".

Since taking office last month, Johnson has been adamant Britain will leave the European Union on October 31 come what may and has stepped up preparations for a chaotic "no deal" departure that would cause major economic disruption.

Mr Johnson said the agreement in its current form would not get through the House of Commons, while Mr Varadkar reiterated that it can not be reopened.

He wrote: "The backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place [alternative arrangements] as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship".

However, Natasha Bertaud - spokesperson for the EU Commission - said the letter doesn't provide a legal operational solution to prevent a hard border on Ireland.

"Whichever Brexit outcome he pursues, whether it's a disastrous no deal or this fantasyland wishlist, Boris Johnson clearly has no qualms about putting jobs, rights, prosperity or peace in Northern Ireland at risk", he said.

British prime minister has reportedly told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that the Common Travel Area will remain in place after Brexit.

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European diplomats expect little progress on Brexit until the British domestic landscape becomes clearer when parliament returns on September 3 - a point after which the opposition Labour Party has vowed to try to collapse Johnson's government.

Mr Johnson will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday and France's Emmanuel Macron on Thursday for his first face-to-face talks with Europe's key powerbrokers. Johnson's government is propped up by Northern Irish unionists.

The prime minister and the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) have "shared perspectives on the withdrawal agreement" in a phone conversation.

In the face of apparently co-ordinated resistance from the three main EU institutions - the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament - Mr Johnson stood firm on the need for change.

Mr Johnson also leaves the door open for a fallback option - which the backstop was meant to be - in case other arrangements are not in place, saying "we are ready to look constructively and flexibly at what commitments might help".

The bloc has repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes a protocol on the Irish border "backstop" that then-prime minister Theresa May agreed in November.

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning that Congress could work on a cross-party basis to block a deal.

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