Johnson accuses EU of making it impossible to leave with a deal
A Number 10 source said German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that the chances of an agreement are ‘overwhelmingly unlikely’.
Downing Street has accused Brussels of making it “impossible” for Britain to leave the European Union with a deal.
Following a call between Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel, a Number 10 source said the German Chancellor had made it clear that the EU had taken a “new position” following the tabling of the latest UK plan last week.
“She made clear a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely and she thinks the EU has a veto on us leaving the customs union,” the source, quoted by Sky News, said.
Mrs Merkel is said to have told the Prime Minister that Northern Ireland is the UK’s “special problem” and that the Irish Republic must at least have a veto on it leaving the customs union.
“It was a very useful clarifying moment in all sorts of ways,” the source said. “If this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible, not just now but ever.
“It also made clear that they are willing to torpedo the Good Friday Agreement.”
For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the comments represented a “cynical attempt” by Number 10 to “sabotage” the negotiations.
“Boris Johnson will never take responsibility for his own failure to put forward a credible deal. His strategy from day one has been for a no-deal Brexit,” he said.
European Council president Donald Tusk hit back at Number 10, accusing Mr Johnson of engaging in a “stupid blame game”.
“Boris Johnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” he tweeted.
“At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people.
“You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?”
EU leaders have so far refused to engage on the latest UK plan which would see the return of customs controls on the island of Ireland – although the Government has said they would take place well away from the border – insisting it cannot form the basis of a deal.
Mrs Merkel was said to have told the Prime Minister that the UK could not leave the EU without leaving Northern Ireland behind in a customs union.
The latest comments from Downing Street follow a warning that negotiations with Brussels to enable Britain to leave at the end of October with a deal would “probably” end this week.
A Number 10 source told The Spectator political editor James Forsyth that Irish Premier Leo Varadkar was no longer prepared to talk, preferring to “gamble” on a second referendum to overturn the 2016 vote.
The source also said there were “all sorts of ways” they could scupper the Benn Act, which requires Mr Johnson to seek a fresh Brexit extension if he cannot get an agreement by October 19.
The source said that, if any EU government supported a further delay, it would be treated as an act of “hostile interference” with UK politics.
“We will make clear, privately and publicly, that countries which oppose delay will go the front of the queue for future co-operation – co-operation on things both within and outside EU competences,” the source said.
“Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue. Supporting delay will be seen by this Government as hostile interference in domestic politics, and over half of the public will agree with us.”
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