UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to urge Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron today to rule out extensions to Brexit in the hopes of getting MPs to back a revised deal, reports the Daily Mail.
Johnson, arriving in New York last night for the annual UN General Assembly, is believed to be planning three-way negotiations with Merkel and Macron to detail his plans to replace the Irish backstop and persuade them to make it clear that any new deal would have to be passed by 31 October.
Ministers believe the move would force MPs to finally choose between exiting the EU with a deal and crashing out without one.
This could potentially circumvent new legislation requiring Johnson to seek another three-month extension to Brexit unless a deal has been approved by Parliament by 19 October.
However, sources acknowledge that Johnson first needs to persuade EU leaders to compromise on the Irish backstop.
The British Prime Minister on Monday cautioned against the likelihood of a Brexit breakthrough at talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“I would caution you all not to think that this is going to be the moment. I don’t wish to elevate excessively the belief that there will be a New York breakthrough,” he told reporters on the plane on the way to New York.
Irish Border Stumbling Block
The backstop at the Irish border after Brexit has been one of the stumbling blocks of the Brexit saga.
Currently, people and goods can freely cross the Irish border, as both the UK and Ireland belong to the EU.
Brussels insists that Northern Ireland must remain in the EU customs zone.
“If there is going to be a deal then the EU is going to have to move on that,” the Daily Mail quotes an insider as saying.
Despite Johnson's demand for the backstop to be removed, EU leaders have said that the UK has not come up with workable ways to maintain an open border between EU member Ireland and the UK's Northern Ireland.
Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned the EU that the Government would not accept a deal which left Northern Ireland stuck in the customs union after Brexit.
The UK has proposed an all-Ireland agriculture zone for livestock and food, which could eliminate border checks on 40 percent of trade.
However, ministers baulk at contemplating a deal that would require customs checks on other goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Raab is quoted as saying on Sunday there “couldn’t be a Northern Ireland-only backstop in its entirety in the way it was proposed previously.”
Earlier this week, Sky News had reported EU President Jean-Claude Juncker as saying he was doing "everything to get a deal" but warning Britain’s leaving the EU without an agreement would entail "catastrophic consequences", including customs posts and other barriers between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Shrinking Brexit Options
Boris Johnson will use his three-day trip to New York to conduct Brexit discussions with EU President Donald Tusk, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Belgian PM Charles Michel.
Since the House of Commons voted to legislate against a no-deal Brexit, the PM has found himself up against the wall as he struggles to deliver on his election promise of not extending the Brexit deadline, but strives to avoid breaking the law by pulling the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.
Johnson is bracing for a Supreme Court ruling on whether he broke the law when he suspended Parliament for five weeks ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline.
The PM insists the suspension was a routine measure to prepare for a new session of Parliament, yet opponents claim he acted illegally to stop lawmakers from interfering with his plan to leave the EU, with or without a Brexit deal.
The 11 justices could rule as early as Monday, with a decision that the suspension was illegal potentially seeing lawmakers recalled to Parliament immediately.
Previously, The Mail on Sunday wrote that Johnson will attempt to push through his Brexit deal by putting it in the Queens speech when parliament returns on 14 October, with an anonymous Downing Street source claiming the government believes including the new withdrawal deal with the Queen’s speech is "the best hope" of getting an agreement voted through.