08 October 2019 19:02
London — Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office told British journalists Tuesday that reaching a Brexit deal with the European Union ahead of the upcoming October 31 deadline was "essentially impossible." Johnson's government was reacting to a call between the him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the day, during which Merkel reportedly said it was "overwhelmingly unlikely" any deal could be reached based on proposals Johnson sent to the EU last week. The dire outlook presented by Johnson's government sparked a war of words with European Council President Donald Tusk, who tweeted directly at the prime minister: "What's at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. The U.K. is set to leave the EU on October 31, but legislation recently passed by Britain's Parliament requires Prime Minister Johnson to ask Brussels for an extension if the House of Commons doesn't endorse a deal or consent to a no-deal Brexit by October 19. Meanwhile on Tuesday, the U.K. government published a "No-Deal Readiness Report," outlining preparations it has made in the event the U.K. does leave the EU without an agreement. Parliament is expected to be suspended Tuesday evening until October 14 to give Johnson's government the chance to set out a new legislative agenda in a "Queen's Speech." This comes after the Supreme Court ruled Johnson's previous request for a suspension of Parliament — or "prorogation" — was illegal, because it shut down debate for what it said was an unreasonable amount of time.
A No 10 source who said the German chancellor Angela Merkel's demands for Northern Ireland after Brexit had made a deal "essentially impossible" has sparked furious exchanges on social media between prominent politicians. Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, criticised Johnson directly, tweeting it was not about "winning some stupid blame game". Donald Tusk (@eucopresident)[email protected], what's at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. The Brexit party's recent party political broadcast included a section that heavily implied the withdrawal agreement negotiated between Theresa May and EU, upon which it said Boris Johnson would base his deal, signed the country up for military cooperation. Earlier, responding to the unofficial No 10 briefing published on James Forsyth's Spectator blog, which implied the UK might withhold security cooperation from EU countries that backed a Brexit extension, the Green party's Caroline Lucas described the government's position as "as close to blackmail as it gets".
It followed a briefing from the U.K. side of a phone call between Johnson and Merkel on Tuesday morning, which all but accused the German chancellor of ending the negotiations. A Downing Street official briefed some journalists that the German leader told Johnson the U.K. cannot leave the European Union without leaving Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU. Under Johnson's plan, Northern Ireland, like the rest of the U.K., would leave the EU's customs union following a transition period — on January 1, 2021. At that point, if a free-trade deal is not in place, the complex new customs and regulatory regime would enter into force, provided that Northern Ireland's devolved government agreed. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney quickly weighed in to support Tusk, while stressing that the EU was still open to negotiating a deal.
Boris Johnson has been accused of engaging in "stupid blame game" after Downing Street claimed the EU had made a Brexit deal "impossible". Downing Street sources claimed German chancellor Angela Merkel had made clear that an agreement was now "overwhelmingly unlikely". Following a telephone call with Boris Johnson, she was said to have insisted the Irish must have a veto over Northern Ireland leaving the customs union. The claims provoked a furious response from European Council president Donald Tusk who accused him of jeopardising the future security of the EU and the UK. "Boris Johnson, what's at stake is not winning some stupid blame game," he tweeted. Amid the dramatic escalation in the war of words between London and Brussels, there was apparent alarm among some UK ministers at the prospect the Government could withdraw security co-operation with the EU if it tries to stop the UK leaving in a no-deal Brexit at the end of the month. Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said: "I am clear that any threat on withdrawing security co-operation with Ireland is unacceptable." The row comes after EU leaders made clear that Mr Johnson's plan to resolve issue of the Northern Ireland backstop was not a basis for an agreement. A no 10 source said Mrs Merkel had told the Prime Minister that the UK could not leave the EU without leaving Northern Ireland behind in a customs union with the EU. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Berlin (Stefan Rousseau/PA) It was said to have been made clear that defence and security co-operation with the EU would be affected if it tried to keep Britain in against the will of the Government. Former cabinet minister Amber Rudd, who quit the Government and the Tory Party over Brexit, said the Prime Minister's chief adviser Dominic Cummings appeared to be behind the briefing. His strategy from day one has been no-deal Brexit," he said. We remain open to finalize a fair #Brexit deal but need a UK Govt willing to work with EU to get it done. "We remain open to finalise a fair Brexit deal but need a UK Government willing to work with EU to get it done," he tweeted.