Britain's Boris Johnson appeals to European Union to drop 'Irish backstop' demand

Thursday, 22 Aug, 2019

After more than three years of Brexit crisis, the United Kingdom is heading towards a showdown with the European Union as Johnson has vowed to leave the bloc on October 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the divorce terms.

United Kingdom prime minister Boris Johnson has sent an open letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk in order to reopen the discussion on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking beside Merkel at the German Chancellery, Johnson repeatedly said that the Irish border backstop - which is a protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement struck by his predecessor Theresa May - needed to be removed in full.

Home Office civil servants have warned Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson that its plans to "abolish free movement" overnight for European Union citizens on 1 November risks becoming "another Windrush" scandal.

"The main goal of the visit really is to convey President Trump's desire to see a successful exit from the European Union for the United Kingdom on October 31, to offer to be of help in any way that we can and to express his hope we can have a fully comprehensive bilateral trade agreement with the United Kingdom as soon as possible".

There is "ample scope" to reach a new Brexit deal, Boris Johnson has said, but he accepted the "onus" was on the United Kingdom to come up with a workable alternative to the Irish backstop.

"Unless the withdrawal agreement is reopened and the backstop abolished there is no prospect of a deal", a Downing Street spokesman said.

The prime minister is due to meet for dinner with German Chancellor Angel Merkel this evening before having lunch with the French President Emmanual Macron on Thursday. Johnson's government is propped up by Northern Irish unionists.

The UK voted to leave the European Union over three years ago.

Merkel also emphasized the interest in a "negotiated withdrawal", but at the same time said that "We are also prepared if such a negotiated withdrawal does not exist".

Johnson proposed that the backstop - part of the withdrawal agreement his predecessor, Theresa May, agreed previous year - be replaced with a "commitment" to invent and implement an as-yet-unknown solution in an as-yet-undefined transition period as part of a post-Brexit relationship.

Instead, Johnson said the backstop should be replaced with "alternative arrangements" to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"The chaos and dislocation of Boris Johnson's no-deal Brexit is real and threatening", he wrote in a letter.

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been enthusiastic about Brexit but critical of May's negotiating strategy, offered Britain help while criticizing the EU.

With talk of an election swirling in Britain, an online survey suggested Johnson's tougher stance on Brexit was dramatically reviving his Conservative party's fortunes.

Once the nightmare scenario on the extreme edge of probability ranges, a no-deal Brexit is now seen as a realistic possibility by both governments and investors.

Commenting further, Donnelly said, "Again and again over the past three years, the House of Commons has shown itself happy to reject proposals from government or Opposition but incapable of agreeing on any specific alternative to these proposals".

Classified documents leaked to the Sunday Times over the weekend warned of food, medical and fuel shortages, as well as a return to a hard Irish border, if Britain leaves without a deal.