Johnson to Raise Brexit Stakes in Visits to Germany and France

Andrew Atkinson

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson will travel to Germany and France this week to make clear that Britain is leaving the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.

The prime minister will tell German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron that the EU must offer a new deal or face Britain leaving the bloc without one.

The British Parliament “will not, and cannot, cancel the referendum,” his office said in a statement on Saturday.

Johnson will visit Berlin and Paris on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 in his first overseas trip since becoming leader. The visit comes ahead of the Group of Seven summit in France.

His warning comes amid a report that the government is preparing for a three-month "meltdown" at British ports, a hard Irish border and shortages of food and medicine. These represent the “most likely aftershocks" of a no-deal Brexit, according to the Sunday Times, which cited leaked government documents. Michael Gove, the cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, said “Operation Yellowhammer” represented a “worst-case scenario.”

Economic Hit

Britain is heading for a no-deal Brexit at a time when fears are mounting for the global economy amid the escalating trade clash between the U.S. and China.

The pound fell to its lowest levels since the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit vote this month and the U.K. economy shrank for the first time in more than six years between April and June. Johnson is under growing pressure to recall Parliament from its summer recess to discuss the Brexit crisis.

The EU has ruled out renegotiating the thrice-rejected deal it struck with his predecessor, Theresa May. The agreement stalled in Parliament over how to keep the Irish border open, with the EU insisting on a “backstop” that would tie Britain closely to the bloc.

The standoff leaves opponents of a no-deal Brexit just weeks to find a way to stop Britain crashing out of the bloc, an event that business leaders and many economists say would trigger economic chaos.

Corbyn Plea

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, renewed his appeal to lawmakers opposed to a no-deal departure to let him head a caretaker government, a proposal that has so far failed to gain widespread support.

“My message to MPs across Parliament is simple and urgent: only by working together can we stop no-deal,” Corbyn told the Observer newspaper. “Three years after the EU referendum, the country stands at a precipice. Boris Johnson has become prime minister without any popular mandate. He has no right to drive our country off a cliff and into the arms of Donald Trump with his no-deal fixation.”

The Mail on Sunday meanwhile cited a leaked letter in which Johnson accused those trying to stop a no-deal Brexit of making it harder to reach a new deal with the EU.

Attack on Hammond

Johnson said the EU "will simply not compromise as long as they believe there is the faintest possibility that Parliament can block Brexit on Oct. 31.” The comments are being seen as an attack on former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who has said he is confident Parliament will come up with a way to stop a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson has said Parliament could be suspended in order to deliver Brexit. But on Sunday, prominent anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller said the government now accepts such a move would be illegal. Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday show, Miller said she will be seeking reassurance that lawmakers would be able to pass legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit.

In a move designed to underscore the government’s commitment to leaving, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay on Sunday announced that he had signed an order to scrap the 1972 Brussels Act, effectively ending all EU law in the U.K. on Oct. 31.

“This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back,” Barclay said in a statement.

Johnson will meet world leaders at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, starting Aug. 24. His talks with Merkel and Macron are expected to revolve around foreign policy and security as well as the global economy and trade.

“The EU are our closest neighbors and whatever happens we want a strong relationship after we leave,” his office said.

--With assistance from Robert Hutton and Sebastian Tong.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Atkinson in London at a.atkinson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Kopit at skopit@bloomberg.net, James Amott

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