The Prime Minister has told European Union negotiators he intends to rip up previous defence pledges in the current withdrawal agreement. David Frost, his top EU adviser, has revealed the plans to counterparts in Brussels during a number of crunch meetings in recent weeks. But diplomats and officials have hit back, accusing Britain of using the bloc’s security as a bargaining chip in the tense negotiating standoff.
One source familiar with the talks suggested Mr Johnson was trying to leverage security fears across Eastern Europe to gain an upper hand in the negotiations.
Another branded the move as a “bargaining chip versus the East”, and warned it only acts as another hurdle in trying to strike a Brexit deal.
“None of this is geared towards working to close on a deal, we’re drifting further away,” the source added.
Mr Frost’s talks with Brussels have centred on finding an alternative to the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, but has also explored tweaks of the political declaration on the future relationship.
He wants to ensure Britain’s national sovereignty is upheld in any future defence and security cooperation with Brussels.
Theresa May previously pledged to maintain a close security partnership with the EU after Brexit, with the former prime minister insisting Britain would always play a role in defending the Continent.
A UK source said: “The future relationship should include a security relationship that will enable the UK and the EU to jointly compared shared threats faced by our citizens, domestically and abroad.”
EU officials have also claimed that Mr Frost is attempting to dismantle the close economic and trading partnership worked up by Mrs May.
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He has told his EU counterparts that Mr Johnson’s Government is instead seeking a looser free-trade agreement, which scraps a number of previous “level playing field commitments”.
An EU diplomat said: “David Frost hasn’t revealed any plans beyond a free-trade agreement, with no level playing field, less governance and less defence.”
The British negotiator will hold a second round of talks in Brussels tomorrow as part of an intensified effort to strike a deal.
Mr Frost has sparked genuine anger amongst EU officials and diplomats after failing to put forward any “concrete proposals” to replace the backstop.
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An EU source said: “Let’s say that our impression is that Frost is increasingly going through the motions with obvious monotony and little enthusiasm to come to a deal.
“It seems we’re only having talks for fear of being seen as not wanting to engage – it’s pretty savage.”
But in an effort to keep talks on track, Michel Barnier and Steve Barclay will also hold talks over the telephone tomorrow.
Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, yesterday warned that Brexit talks are in “paralysis” as both parties squabble over the backstop.
He told senior EU diplomats: “We are currently in a state of paralysis.”
Brussels negotiators don’t believe Mr Johnson will be able to deliver Brexit while pushing for a general election.
Today EU capitals were told to “get their shops in order” for a no-deal Brexit and were told there is going to be a special “roadshow” to ensure the bloc is ready ahead of October 31.
Express.co.uk has approached the UK Government for comment on the EU’s accusations.
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