- Officials in Dublin and Brussels rule out Boris Johnson’s request to strip out parts of the Brexit deal negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May.
- He wrote a letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk on Monday demanding that Brussels remove the Irish backstop from the withdrawal agreement, something it has repeatedly refused to consider.
- "The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation and the backstop is not open for change," an EU source told the Guardian.
- Ireland’s governing party Fine Gael also rejected Johnson’s demands to remove the backstop.
- The exchange keeps the UK firmly on course for a no-deal Brexit in October.
European officials in Dublin and Brussels have immediately rejected Boris Johnson’s new demand to renegotiate Britain’s Brexit deal, ahead of his meetings later this week with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.
The prime minister wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk on Monday demanding that the EU drop the Northern Ireland backstop from the agreement.
He described the backstop — which seeks to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit — as "anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK" because it could keep the UK bound in the EU’s customs union.
He instead suggested that "alternative arrangements "and technological solutions must be implemented at the Irish border in exchange for new unspecified "commitments" on the border from the UK
The EU has yet to formally respond to the letter.
However, Brussels sources once again ruled out any renegotiation to the withdrawal agreement, which contains the backstop.
"There was a two-and-a-half year negotiating process in which the EU compromised, including on the question of the backstop," a source told the Guardian on Monday evening.
"The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation and the backstop is not open for change. A legally operable backstop to avoid a hard border remains central to the withdrawal agreement for the EU27."
EU officials believe the backstop is needed to preserve the integrity of the European single market and to preserve the Irish peace settlement.
It was included in the withdrawal agreement struck between EU and UK officials last year, which was rejected three times by the UK parliament this year.
Ireland’s governing party Fine Gael also rejected Johnson’s demands to remove the backstop.
Senator Richmond Neale, the party’s spokesperson on European affairs, said that Johnson’s description of the backstop as "anti-democratic" was "new found spin," tweeting that Johnson had voted for it as part of the Withdrawal Agreement earlier this year.
He added that the majority of people in Northern Ireland support the backstop and that it protected, rather than threatened, the peace agreement.
Johnson spoke on the phone with Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, for over an hour shortly before the letter was published, with the two leaders outlining their opposing perspectives on the need for the backstop.
The pair also agreed to meet in Dublin in early September.
The UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU on October 31, and Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit with or without a deal, despite warnings from business leaders that trade disruption would cause severe problems for many firms.
Some MPs believe Johnson’s demands for concessions from the EU are so unrealistic that he is actively seeking no deal.
However, he insisted in the letter that his aim was to secure a negotiated deal with Brussels.
"You have my personal commitment that this government will work with energy and determination to achieve an agreement. That is our highest priority," he wrote.
Johnson will meet with Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday and with Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday, ahead of the G7 Summit this weekend.
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