Politics

Brexit news: PM to tour capitals and warn leaders to back down or risk ‘historic mistake’

The Prime Minister will visit France and Germany ahead of a landmark G7 summit in Biarritz to make it clear he is not bluffing and Britain will leave, with or without a deal, on October 31. Mr Johnson will tell his EU counterparts that Parliament will not, and cannot, stop Brexit. A Downing Street source confirmed that if Remainer MPs tried to prevent the UK’s exit by holding a vote of no confidence, Mr Johnson would trigger an election which would be held after Brexit day.

Mr Johnson’s team expects the EU to change its position when the House of Commons goes into recess for the autumn party conference season.

The source said: “The EU will understand that it is not possible to cancel Brexit – so they will finally focus and negotiate a deal.

“The EU’s current position – that MPs will stop the UK leaving and therefore there is no need to negotiate – will be a historic mistake if they want a deal.”

Pressing for Tory unity, the source urged Conservative MPs to support Mr Johnson’s attempt to secure a deal.

Mr Johnson’s diplomatic offensive comes as MPs discuss ways to stop Britain leaving the bloc without a deal.

Downing Street blames opponents of a no-deal exit for the lack of progress with the EU.

The source pointed the finger at figures such as former chancellor Philip Hammond, ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve – who says he has received death threats – and former Labour prime minister Tony Blair.

“Paris and Berlin have not engaged seriously with negotiations because they [and Brussels officials] have told us people like Grieve, Hammond and Blair are telling them that Parliament will cancel the referendum in the first fortnight of September,” the source said.

“Until they see this is wrong, there is no reason to think they will talk seriously.”

Adamant that the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May is dead, the source said: “It would mean the EU would be permanently in charge of the UK’s laws and taxes.

“No EU leader would sign up to a deal like this on behalf of their own country and the PM will not do so on behalf of the UK,” the insider added.

Number 10 does not expect France or Germany to change their position on Brexit as a result of Mr Johnson’s visits on Wednesday and Thursday.

It anticipates discussions will focus on the weekend’s G7 summit and issues including foreign policy, security, the global economy, trade and the environment. But Mr Johnson has been urged to use a landmark meeting with US president Donald Trump at the summit to send a stark and “startling” message to shock the EU into action.

Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said Mr Johnson should use his first meeting as Prime Minister with Mr Trump as a chance to “set the cat amongst the pigeons” and show Britain is serious about a post-Brexit trading relationship with the US. Mr Duncan Smith said: “I think the most important thing for Boris Johnson is to show them that he means business with America.

“That’s the strongest position to be in.”

Britain’s ex-ambassador to the US, Sir Christopher Meyer, said Mr Johnson should “stick to your guns. Don’t budge an inch. Not an inch”, if EU heavyweights intimidated him in Biarritz.

He advised: “If a German chancellor happens to come by, or a French president, and tries to stiff-arm you, just be very, very polite
 Stick to your guns.”

Sir Christopher suspects EU leaders are pinning their hopes on the “crazy Corbyn initiative” – the Labour leader’s plan to avoid a no-deal Brexit by bringing down the Government through a vote of no confidence – and other parliamentary plots.

Former Tory Europe minister David Heathcoat-Amory said if “carefully handled”, the summit would be a “triumph”.

Predicting Mr Johnson and Mr Trump will hit it off, he said: “They view the world in the same way and they’ve broken through the liberal consensus of clever people who think they know it all.

“I think they’ll have a wonderful time.”

Mr Heathcoat-Amory says the EU feels “very fragile” because of discontent in both eastern and southern Europe, adding: “You can’t wreck the economies of southern Europe without actually people rather minding about it, and that’s what they’ve gone and done.

“They are fighting these internal battles so they are very, very worried about us leaving.

“They have no moral authority any more and the world’s moved on, frankly.”

Arguing a deal with Brussels was still possible, he said: “If the EU wants to be, they are very adaptable and ingenious. They find a way around problems.

“They haven’t had to do that with Brexit because we’ve made all the mistakes.

“But if they really came up against it, the Irish [backstop] problem could be solved, they would find a way of carrying forward some free trade with us.

“But to do that they have to be absolutely convinced that it’s that or nothing. I think Boris is getting that over. I think he’s doing that brilliantly.”

Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, said the Irish were now “very nervous” of Mr Johnson’s arrival at No 10.

The Prime Minister is adamant “backstop” provisions to avoid border checks in Ireland if a longterm Brexit deal cannot be reached must be ditched. Mr Bassett said Irish government officials were “absolutely confident until the change in Downing Street that their method of essentially digging in was going to have no consequences.

“I think Ireland has realised now it may have severe consequences,” he added.

He said German chancellor Angela Merkel was now in the “declining days” of her premiership and “mercurial” French president Emmanuel Macron was capable of sudden policy changes.

Mr Bassett advised Mr Johnson to “stick close with his colleague from across the Atlantic”, adding: “If you put the UK and Canada and the United States together it is a massively bigger operation than [the EU].”

His “gut instinct” is there will be a Brexit deal, with the UK leaving the EU at Halloween, but entering into a transition period when much of the status quo would remain.

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