The head of the EU’s Brexit negotiation team, Michel Barnier, has branded new UK Prime Minister Boris Jonsohn’s demand to abolish the Irish backstop, reviewing the current Withdrawal Agreement, “unacceptable” in a memo to European diplomats in Brussels. He called on them to unite and not let the UK breach the EU’s negotiating mandate.
“As suggested by his rather combative speech, we have to be ready for a situation where he gives priority to the planning for no-deal, partly to heap pressure on the unity of the EU27. In any case, what remains essential on our side is to remain calm, stick to our principles and guidelines and show solidarity and unity of the 27”, Barnier noted, referring Johnson’s address to the House of Commons, in which he even threatened to withhold the UK’s “divorce” payments.
Johnson repeated his demands to get rid of the backstop during phone calls with European leaders, as a comment by a Downing Street spokesman said.
According to the representative of the British government, cited by The Daily Mail, when French President Emmanuel Macron called Johnson to congratulate him, the prime minister warned that the Withdrawal Agreement, rejected three times by Parliament, “is not going to pass” meaning the deal must be reopened and “securing the abolition of the backstop”. Johnson, however also promised to be energetic in trying to seek a deal.
He sent the same signal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reiterating his message to the House of Commons that “the UK must fully prepare” to leave without a deal on 31 October against the backdrop of the current agreement, forged by Theresa May, having been rejected.
Chancellor #Merkel spoke to the new UK Prime Minister Boris #Johnson on the telephone today; they discussed #Brexit as well as bilateral relations. The Chancellor invited the Prime Minister to come to Berlin for his first visit in the near future. @10DowningStreet pic.twitter.com/TdW1NUDKSb— Ulrike Demmer (@UlrikeDemmer) July 26, 2019
“He said the only solution that would allow us to make progress on a deal is to abolish the backstop. The PM and Chancellor agreed to stay in contact”, the Downing Street spokesman indicated.
The same call with the outgoing EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is to leave his post on the very same day when the UK is supposed to part with the EU, also brought no signs of breaking the deadlock, as has been reported.
Johnson’s tirade has prompted criticism in Europe and even reportedly raised fears of a Brexit Iron Curtain.
While French minister for Europe Amelie de Montchalin told the broadcaster France 2 that there is no place for “games, posturing, provocations”, reacting to Johnson’s stance, Angela Merkel even shared with friends her belief that a no-deal could create an “Iron Curtain” between the bloc and the UK, The Times reported.