World

UK’s Johnson pushes EU for new Brexit deal

By AAP Newswire

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on France and Germany to change their position on Brexit and negotiate a new exit deal for Britain, reiterating his stance that he is ready to leave the European Union without a deal if they do not.

With Britain set to leave the bloc at the end of October, it has less than 74 days to resolve a three-year crisis that is pitting the country against the EU, and parliament against the executive.

"We will be ready to come out on October 31 - deal or no deal," Johnson told reporters in Truro, southwest England.

"Our friends and partners on the other side of the Channel are showing a little bit of reluctance to change their position - that's fine - I am confident that they will," he said.

Johnson also wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk to propose replacing the Irish backstop with a commitment to put in place alternative arrangements by the end of a post-Brexit transition period.

In the letter, published by his office on Monday, Johnson repeated his calls for the backstop - an insurance policy to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland - to be removed from the deal the EU reached with his predecessor Theresa May.

Johnson said he believed it was possible to reach an agreement and that doing so was his government's "highest priority".

"The UK and the EU have already agreed that 'alternative arrangements' can be part of the solution. Accordingly: I propose that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship," he wrote.

Johnson added that Britain was ready to look "constructively and flexibly" at what commitments could help provide confidence about what would happen if such arrangements were not fully in place at the end of that period.

The backstop would force Britain to obey some EU rules if no other way could be found to keep the land border open between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Dublin says this is crucial to maintaining peace on the island.

In his letter, Johnson said the backstop was "simply unviable" because it is "anti-democractic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK as a state" but that he was committed to ensuring there was no return to a hard border.

Johnson spoke by phone for almost an hour on Monday with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar and agreed to meet in Dublin in early September, the Irish and British governments said

According to identical statements issued by the two governments following the call on Monday, both men stuck to their existing positions.

Johnson said the current Brexit deal would not be approved by parliament and the backstop needed to be removed and replaced with an alternative solution while Varadkar reiterated the EU's position that the deal cannot be reopened and emphasised that there must be a legal guarantee to prevent a hard border.

"They agreed that their teams would maintain close contact over the coming weeks while recognising that negotiations take place between the UK and the EU27 Task Force. They also agreed to meet in Dublin in early September," the statements said.

Johnson also made clear that the Common Travel Area, which allows British and Irish citizens to move freely between the two countries and enjoy additional rights, would not be impacted by Britain ending EU freedom of movement rules after Brexit, the governments added.