While the EU braces for a no-deal Brexit, British prime minister Boris Johnson is faced with the prospect of a rebellion by his own cabinet.
Political leaders in the UK and the EU appear resigned to the idea that “no-deal” is becoming the central scenario. Former British Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt told the BBC that no- deal would be “a failure in statecraft” while the Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen told Reuters this is now “a dangerously realistic scenario.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will meet in Paris on October 16, to prepare a common position on Brexit, ahead of the Oct. 17-18 EU summit.
Johnson wants the EU to sign onto an agreement that will allow Northern Ireland to leave the customs union and the single market, without the Republic being forced to erect a new border infrastructure on the island. Johnson is due to meet Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday for further talks but it is clear that these are concessions neither the EU nor Ireland are willing to make.
EU officials denied a report by The Times that Brussels was preparing a major concession to Britain to secure a Brexit deal. The Times reported that the EU was ready to offer a mechanism for the Northern Irish assembly to leave the single market and the customs union by 2025, unilaterally. But EU officials have categorically denied this scenario is true. “We don’t know where that story came from,” EU officials told Reuters.
At the home front, Johnson is facing a rebellion in his cabinet, with a group of ministers poised to resign due to concerns over a no-deal Brexit. The Times reports that Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Health Minister Matt Hancock and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox are bracing to resign. They could be followed by a number of Conservative MPs.
The UK’s Brexit minister, Steve Barclay, is meeting the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday. Over their business lunch, they will explore whether there is any scope for further negotiations.