Boris Johnson expects EU talks to replace Irish backstop plan ‘in the coming weeks’

Andrew Woodcock
Boris Johnson expects talks with EU on the Irish backstop 'in the coming weeks' and returns Donald Tusk's warning of going down in history as 'Mr No-Deal Brexit': Getty

Boris Johnson has said he expects talks with the EU “in the coming weeks” on alternative arrangements to replace the controversial Brexit backstop for the Irish border.

And the prime minister warned that European Council president Donald Tusk could go down in history as “Mr No-Deal Brexit” if he refused to engage in talks to find an EU withdrawal agreement with the UK by the scheduled date of Brexit on 31 October.

Mr Johnson’s comments came after Mr Tusk said the EU would be ready to hold “serious talks” if the UK government came forward with realistic proposals for keeping the Irish border open without a backstop after Brexit, so long as they were acceptable to all 27 remaining member states including Ireland.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France – where the pair will meet on Sunday – Mr Tusk said he was unwilling to cooperate in bringing about a no-deal departure on Halloween and said he hoped Mr Johnson did not want to be “Mr No-Deal”.

Answering questions from reporters on his flight to Biarritz, Mr Johnson said: “I have made it absolutely clear I don’t want a no-deal Brexit, but I say to our friends in the EU, if they don’t want a no-deal Brexit, we’ve got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty.

“If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as Mr No-Deal Brexit, then I hope that point will be borne in mind by him too.

“We’ve made it very clear that we won’t be instituting any kind of checks or controls on the Northern Irish border. We don’t think that any such controls are necessary.

“There are a large range of alternative arrangements with which you’ll be familiar. Those will be discussed with our friends in the coming weeks. We will be discussing things in great detail, as you’d expect.”

Mr Johnson declined to say whether he felt Mr Tusk had him in mind when he said there was “a special place in hell” for people who brought about Brexit without having a plan for how to make it succeed.

“I have great relations with our friends and partners in the EU and intend to continue to improve them the whole time, without getting into any post-Brexit eschatology with the president of the council,” he said.

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Speaking in Biarritz, Mr Tusk said: “The EU was always open to cooperation, when David Cameron tried to avoid Brexit, when Theresa May tried to avoid a no-deal Brexit, and we will also be ready now to hold serious talks with prime minister Johnson. The one thing I will to cooperate on is no deal.

“I still hope that Prime Minister Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr No-Deal. We are willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all member states, including Ireland, if and when the UK government is ready to put them on the table.”

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