Belfast Telegraph

EU must remove backstop or UK will leave without a deal vows Boris Johnson

Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Boris Johnson has said that the UK will leave the EU without a deal if they are unwilling to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement and remove the Irish border backstop.

The Prime Minister was speaking during his inaugural speech to Parliament on Thursday after succeeding Theresa May.

Mr Johnson said he would deliver Brexit on October 31 "for the purpose of reuniting and renergising" the UK.

"I, and all ministers, are committed to leaving on this date. Whatever the circumstances," he told the House of Commons.

"To do otherwise would cause a catastrophic loss of confidence in our political system.

"It would leave the British people wondering whether their politicians could ever be trusted again to follow a clear democratic instruction."

Mr Johnson said that he would prefer to leave with a deal and would work "flat out" to make it happen, but that Mrs May's deal had been rejected by Parliament three times.

"No country that values its independence and self respect could agree to a treaty that signed away our economic independence and self-government as this backstop does," the Prime Minister said.

"A time-limit is not enough, if an agreement is to be reached it must be clearly understood that the way to a deal goes by the way of abolition of the backstop.

"We are ready to renegotiate in good faith an alternative, with provisions to ensure that the Irish border issues are dealt with where they always should have been, in the negotiations on the future agreement between the UK and EU."

The newly installed Tory leader said that he did not believe the backstop was necessary to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

"I do not accept the argument that says these issues can only be resolved by all or part of the UK remaining in the customs union or in the single market," he said.

"The evidence is that other arrangements are perfectly possible and are also perfectly compatible with the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement to which we are steadfastly committed.

"I, my team and the Brexit Secretary (Stephen Barclay) are ready to meet and talk on this basis to the Commission or other EU colleagues whenever, wherever they are ready to do so."

Mr Johnson said that if the EU were not willing to renegotiate then the UK would leave without a deal and called for no-deal preparations to be increased.

"For our part we will throw ourselves into these negotiations with the greatest energy and determination, and in the spirit of friendship and I hope that the EU will be equally ready and that they will rethink their current refusal to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement," he said.

"If they do not, we will of course have to leave the EU without an agreement under Article 50, the UK is better prepared for that situation than many believe.

"But, we are not as ready yet as we should be, in the 98 days that remain to us we must turbo-charge our preparations to make sure there is as little disruption as possible to our national life and I believe that is possible with the kind of national effort the British people have made before and will make again."

The controversial backstop plan aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, but Brexiteers and the DUP have claimed it could keep the UK aligned with the EU indefinitely and create a trade border in the Irish Sea.

The backstop issue effectively ended Theresa May's hopes of getting her Brexit deal through Parliament and its failure hastened her departure as Prime Minister.

The EU has repeatedly said it would be unwilling to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, but said it may consider changes to political declarations tied to the deal.

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