Boris Johnson urges Europe to ‘grasp opportunity’ to get Brexit done

  1. ITV Report
  2. 5 October 2019 at 8:02pm
Boris Johnson has insisted the UK will leave with or without a deal. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has urged Brussels to “grasp the opportunity” his new Brexit proposal provides, as he repeated his vow not to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Prime Minister insisted Britain will pack its bags and walk out on October 31, but said it remains to be seen whether Europe will “cheerily wave us off” with a deal.

Describing his blueprint for an agreement as a “practical compromise that gives ground where necessary”, Mr Johnson said it represents the UK “jumping to the island in the middle of the river”.

Writing in the Sun on Sunday, he added: “If we’re to leave with a deal, we now need the EU to jump over from its side and join us there, showing its own willingness to do a deal that the UK Parliament can support.”

But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier poured scorn on the chances of the new proposal succeeding, reportedly telling an event in Paris: “If they do not change, I do not believe, on the basis of the mandate I have been given by the EU27, that we can advance.”

In comments reported by The Observer, he also reiterated the EU’s claim that a no-deal outcome would “never be Europe’s choice… it would always be the UK’s choice, not ours”.

Michel Barnier says if there is no deal, it will be the UK’s choice. Credit: AP

Mr Johnson added that he was encouraged that his new plans had not been dismissed out of hand, it seemed, by many MPs.

“Where the previous Withdrawal Agreement, backstop and all, drove an almighty wedge through the heart of Parliament, I have heard positive noises from across the House,” he said.

He said it will be more likely for the EU to accept Britain’s “outstretched hand” and make that “leap on to the island” if he is armed with a set of proposals MPs support.

He added: “So I say to our European friends: grasp the opportunity that our new proposal provides. Join us at the negotiating table in a spirit of compromise and co-operation. And let’s make Brexit work for both sides.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s attempts to secure a deal with Brussels have won the backing of former prime minister David Cameron.

Cameron said he “completely supports” the incumbent’s efforts to get a deal in Europe and take it through the Commons, adding: “That’s the best thing that could possibly happen.”

Mr Cameron, who was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, said he thought there was a “good chance” of Mr Johnson’s efforts succeeding.

He added: “It is difficult but I think it is far better than a no-deal outcome, which I don’t think is a good outcome and not something I would recommend.”

David Cameron was at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. Credit: PA

He suggested British politics would be “stuck” until Brexit is resolved, telling the festival: “If I can be perfectly frank about this and we can’t get a deal and we can’t all be stuck and I recognise my fair share of the responsibility for that fact we are stuck.

“We had a referendum and I lost that referendum and we found it very difficult to charge a way forward. We’ve had three years where we have not been able to resolve it and if you can’t resolve it with a deal, which is the right answer, there are only really three answers.

“You can have a deal; you can have a general election and try and change the arithmetic in the House of Commons; or you can have a second referendum and take it back to the people.”

Mr Cameron’s support came after Brussels dealt a heavy blow to the PM’s new Brexit proposals, and anticipated weekend talks between the two sides were called off.

Cameron has expressed his regret at the fallout from calling a referendum. Credit: PA

The European Commission said EU member states had agreed the proposals “do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”.

A spokesman said discussions between the two sides would not take place this weekend and instead the UK would be given “another opportunity to present its proposals in detail” on Monday.

“Michel Barnier debriefed COREPER (The Permanent Representatives Committee) yesterday, where member states agreed that the UK proposals do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement,” the spokesman added.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte said he had spoken to Mr Johnson on Saturday, but that “important questions remain about the British proposals”.

“There is a lot of work to be done ahead of #EUCO on October 17/18,” he tweeted.

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Just spoke to @BorisJohnson on the phone. Important questions remain about the British proposals. There is a lot of work to be done ahead of #EUCO on October 17/18.

&mdash; Mark Rutte (@MinPres) October 5, 2019

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However, Mr Johnson’s plans were well-received by the likes of Margot James – who was one of the 21 Tory rebels expelled from the party last month – and Paul Scully of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptics.

Ms James told BBC Radio 4’s The Week In Westminster she thought she and the other sacked rebels would be able to support the PM’s proposals.

She said: “If the Prime Minister can get EU and Irish agreement then I think that we would – we’ve all got reservations – but we would be prepared to compromise and vote for the deal. Our prime concern really is to avoid Britain leaving without a deal.”

Mr Scully said there was a “lot of sympathy” among members of the ERG to get the deal through the Commons, adding: “It does most of the things that Leavers asked of our Government to sort out.”

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New deal or no deal &ndash; but no delay. #GetBrexitDone #LeaveOct31 🇬🇧

&mdash; Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 4, 2019

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