British Prime Minister Boris Johnson emphasised on Monday that he wants a Brexit deal on 18 October and was undaunted by Parliament's attempts to block a no-deal exit.
"I'm absolutely undaunted by whatever may take place in Parliament. I think what the British people want us to do is to deliver a deal and to get on and take us out on 31 October," said Johnson, as quoted by Reuters.
Speaking in Ireland alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, the PM said he was bringing ideas on how to resolve the Irish border backstop issue, but that a breakthrough on Monday was unlikely.
"I have one message that I want to land with you today, Leo, that is I want to find a deal, I want to get a deal. Like you, I've looked carefully at no-deal, I've assessed its consequences both for our country and yours."
Boris Johnson is in Dublin as he battles to keep his Brexit plan on track.
Contentious Brexit Irish border issue
Talks to secure an orderly Brexit have floundered on the issue of how to avoid the necessity of building border control and customs infrastructure along the border between EU member Ireland and the British region of Northern Ireland.
The so-called “backstop” protocol in the current withdrawal deal mandates regulatory alignment between Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom. According to Brexit supporters, this would complicate new trade deals.
Boris Johnson had suggested an all-Ireland system of sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) checks on agricultural products might offer a partial solution.
Ireland’s PM Leo Varadkar, however, pointed out such issues only account for about 30% of border checks.
“It’s not enough on its own. We would need a single Irish economic zone, or whatever you would like to call it, to cover more than agriculture and food,” Varadkar said on Friday.
The approach would be a deal-breaker for the Democratic Unionist party, whose objection to border checks in the Irish Sea was conducive in pushing then-Prime Minister Theresa May towards reworking the backstop to cover the UK as a whole.
As he did the rounds of no-deal inspection posts on Dublin’s docks Sunday, Varadkar said he did not expect a “breakthrough” at his first face-to-face meeting with Johnson, but all efforts would remain focused on a deal, adding that “the stakes are high”.
Second bid to trigger a general election
Upon returning from Dublin later on Monday, Johnson is anticipated to make a second bid to trigger a 15 October general election. It is thought that the embattled leader will ask MPs to support a motion tabled under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
However, there is believed to be little likelihood of him avoiding yet another rebuff, after opposition leaders banded together on Friday to reject a snap poll until a no-deal Brexit has been guaranteed.
The bill seeking to block a “no deal” is expected to receive royal assent on Monday.
Johnson earlier insisted he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit, as the backbench law would oblige him to do if he has not agreed a deal that can pass through parliament by 19 October.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, when asked on Sunday regarding the government’s next steps, appeared to suggest Downing Street would seek to find some way around the legislation.
“We will adhere to the law but also this is such a bad piece of legislation … we will also want to test to the limit what it does actually lawfully require. We will look very carefully at the implications and our interpretation of it,” he was quoted as saying by Sky News.
The news comes against a backdrop of mounting disquiet inside the government as work and pension’s secretary, Amber Rudd, resigned Saturday, following in the footsteps of the prime minister’s brother. Jo Johnson. The latter quit after 21 rebels were purged for supporting what Downing Street calls “Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender bill”.
Rudd’s actions on Saturday evening sparked fears of a domino effect, as other Tory moderates are following suit.
Alliance options sparked by looming snap election
The possibility of an alliance between the pro-Brexit wing of the Conservative Party, led by Boris Johnson, and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party surfaced with increasing gusto as a snap general election to break the Brexit limbo looks likely unless Boris Johnson is able to renegotiate a new withdrawal agreement with Brussels before the 31 October deadline.
In the event of an election, both the Brexit Party and the pro-Brexit wing of the governing Conservatives are believed to regard a pact between them as instrumental in averting a scenario where the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn would be propelled into No.10 Downing Street.