UK heading towards no-deal as Johnson rejects withdrawal agreement

Boris Johnson has begun his premiership by signalling the possibility of a no-deal Brexit scenario and dismissing the possibility of talks with the EU unless it agrees to scrap the current withdrawal agree I Iment and Irish backstop.

In a telephone conversation with German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the prime minister reaffirmed his statement to the Commons yesterday: “parliament has rejected the withdrawal agreement three times and so the UK must prepare for the alternative – which is to leave without a deal on October 31.”

The EU revealed that no Brexit talks have been scheduled with Mr Johnson’s government, despite the UK being on course to leave on October 31. A spokesman for the European Commission said they had “no further announcements” to make about future negotiations.

Johnson’s spokesman confirmed that no future talks with the EU had been scheduled, and that if they happened it must be “clear what the basis for those discussions need to be”.

The prime minister’s stance prompted Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, to intimate that a no-deal exit could result in more people seeking a united Ireland.

However, Michael Roth, Germany’s minister of state for Europe, said Boris Johnson was mistaken “to believe that the European Union will let itself be blackmailed”. “My message to the new British prime minister is very clear. Boris, the election campaign is over. Just calm down.”

Analysis from Oliver Murphy – Editor

The intransigence of Boris Johnson’s tone has led many to speculate whether this is a deliberate attempt to derail a negotiated settlement. With No 10 now filled with a significant Vote Leave alumni, it seems as though the prime minister’s aim of negotiating a deal is nothing short of a thinly veiled disguise.

But this is no coincidence. With a clear majority in the Commons determined to block a no-deal departure, Johnson could be forced to declare a general election, for which he will style himself as the champion of Brexit. And this could work in his favour.

Of course, this strategy does carry risks. Although Johnson was seen as the overwhelming victor of the Conservative Leadership election- this was only amongst 92,153 voters. Translate this to a general election, and the outcome could be entirely different. Could he perhaps be the shortest-lived prime minister since the premiership of Lord Goderich in 1827?

The prime minister, however, has dismissed claims that he was preparing to call a general election, saying he would “absolutely not” call for another vote… The British people… don’t want another electoral event… They want us to deliver.”

Indeed, reports now suggest that Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s advisor, has briefed the prime minister to simply delay enacting the result of any no-confidence motion- referencing the fact that he could delay an enforced general election until after Brexit day.

Rhetoric alone, however, isn’t enough. Despite the prime minister’s spokesman clarifying that the aim is to leave with a deal, Johnson must also factor in the concerns of many Conservative MPs, given that he only has a working majority of two- or even one – depending on the outcome of the upcoming Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

Either way, deal or no-deal, from what I am hearing in Westminster, the parliamentary arithmetic could work against a Johnson government- just as it did against Theresa May. And even if Mr Johnson attempts to try an overrule a no-confidence vote, it wouldn’t be above Parliament to legislate against an emergency revocation of Article 50 to prevent a no deal Brexit.


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