In his first speech as prime minister to the House of Commons, Britain’s new leader Boris Johnson said he is willing to pursue a no-deal divorce by 31 October unless he can replace the controversial Irish backstop and renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement of his predecessor, Theresa May.
“I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal. I would much prefer it. I believe that is still possible even at this late stage and I will work flat out to make it happen. But certain things need to be clear,” Johnson said in Commons. “The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this House. Its terms are unacceptable to this Parliament and to this country. No country that values its independence and indeed its self-respect could agree to a Treaty which signs away our economic independence and self-government as this backstop does. A time limit is not enough.”
Johnson, who earlier chaired the first meeting of his new Cabinet, said Chancellor Sajid Javid had agreed to provide the necessary funding to ensure the country was ready to leave at the end of October.
“By 2050 it’s more than possible that the United Kingdom will be the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe and be at the centre of a new network of trade deals which we have pioneered.”
The discussion in Brussels is now centred on Johnson’s ability to harden London’s stance on a no-deal Brexit, a move that the EU sees as being damaging to its future relations with the UK.
The EU is already preparing to mitigate the impact of a no-deal Brexit, even after a no-deal Brexit, but remains open to the idea that the two sides could come back to the table to further clarify certain parts of the agreement.