John­son sends ‘Brexit sherpa’ to Brus­sels to get deal done

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Ed­ward Mal­nick in Biar­ritz and Simon Tay­lor in Brus­sels

BORIS JOHN­SON is send­ing his chief Brexit ad­viser to Brus­sels to­mor­row, as he said EU lead­ers “want this thing done”.

David Frost, Mr John­son’s Brexit “sherpa”, will meet se­nior EU of­fi­cials to dis­cuss al­ter­na­tives to the plan agreed with Theresa May.

Talks be­tween Bri­tish and EU of­fi­cials have stepped up af­ter the Prime Min­is­ter’s vis­its to Ber­lin and Paris last week con­vinced of­fi­cials that he is “se­ri­ous about a deal”. Mean­while, The Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury has be­come em­broiled in the Brexit de­bate over plans to chair a cit­i­zens’ as­sem­bly aimed at stop­ping a no-deal Brexit.

The Most Rev Justin Welby is in talks with a cross-party group of MPS to host a num­ber of meet­ings con­sid­er­ing al­ter­na­tive op­tions to leav­ing the EU with­out a deal, ac­cord­ing to The Times.

Iain Dun­can Smith, the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive leader told the pa­per the pro­pos­als were “deeply in­ap­pro­pri­ate”.

Yes­ter­day it emerged that Mr John­son told EU lead­ers that MPS could not block a no-deal exit, and he later re­fused to rule out sus­pend­ing Par­lia­ment to thwart any at­tempt to carry out such a block.

Last night, the Prime Min­is­ter said: “I think that it’s the job of ev­ery­body in Par­lia­ment to get this thing done.

“I think it’s what the peo­ple want, I also think… it’s what our friends and part­ners on the other side of the Chan­nel want. They want this thing done,

‘They want this thing done, they want it over … They re­gard Brexit now as an en­cum­brance’

they want it over … They re­gard Brexit now as an en­cum­brance.”

Brus­sels tends to “come to an agree­ment right at the end”, he added. Speak­ing ahead of a meet­ing to­day be­tween Jeremy Cor­byn and other op­po­si­tion lead­ers try­ing to stop a no-deal de­par­ture on Oct 31, Mr John­son said MPS must “do the right thing” and honour the 2016 ref­er­en­dum.

The Prime Min­is­ter wants the EU to drop the Ir­ish bor­der “back­stop” plan

‘I think that our Ger­man and French friends have lis­tened very care­fully to what we have had to say’

from Mrs May’s deal, but be­lieves they are un­likely to do so if Brus­sels be­lieves that MPS would oth­er­wise sim­ply de­lay Brexit or block the UK’S de­par­ture al­to­gether. His ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fo­cus on leav­ing on Oct 31 has led some anti-brexit Tories to con­cede it may now be im­pos­si­ble to block the move.

As the G7 sum­mit in Biar­ritz, France, closed, Mr John­son said he was now “marginally more op­ti­mistic” about the prospects of reach­ing an agree­ment.

“I think that our Ger­man friends and our French friends have cer­tainly lis­tened very care­fully to what we have had to say,” he said. “It all de­pends on how se­ri­ously they wish to get a deal.”

Yes­ter­day, se­nior EU fig­ures in­sisted that Brus­sels would not ne­go­ti­ate a fu­ture trade deal with Bri­tain if Mr John­son car­ried out a threat to with­hold the full £39bil­lion divorce bill in the event of no deal.

But be­hind the scenes Mr Frost and his coun­ter­parts are tak­ing part in de­tailed ex­changes about pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive arrangemen­ts to the back­stop.

Mr Frost was last known to have vis­ited Brus­sels for talks at the start of Au­gust. To­mor­row, he is ex­pected to meet mem­bers of the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions unit led by Michel Barnier. Mr Frost is also ex­pected to meet a se­nior of­fi­cial in the team of Don­ald Tusk, the Eu­ro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent.

A se­nior Bri­tish of­fi­cial said: “There have been a lot of dis­cus­sions go­ing on about [al­ter­na­tive arrangemen­ts to the back­stop] at sherpa level, led by David Frost.” Yes­ter­day, Eura­sia Group, a firm of an­a­lysts with close links to Brus­sels, said Mr John­son’s trips to Paris and Ber­lin last week had con­vinced of­fi­cials that he is “se­ri­ous about a deal”.

An­gela Merkel, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, and Em­manuel Macron, the French pres­i­dent, ex­pressed a will­ing­ness to dis­cuss al­ter­na­tive arrangemen­ts to the back­stop.

Last night it was re­vealed that a six­page doc­u­ment had been pre­pared for Mr Cor­byn, of­fer­ing le­gal ad­vice on the pos­si­bil­ity of pro­rogu­ing Par­lia­ment to force through a no-deal Brexit.

In the doc­u­ment, seen by The Guardian, Shami Chakrabart­i, the shadow at­tor­ney gen­eral, laid out how any such move by the Prime Min­is­ter would be open to im­me­di­ate le­gal chal­lenge.

It said that Mr John­son would be com­mit­ting the “gravest abuse of power and at­tack on UK con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple in liv­ing mem­ory” if he shut down Par­lia­ment to help force through a no-deal Brexit and that such ac­tion could be sub­ject to a ju­di­cial re­view.

The ini­tial le­gal guid­ance for No10 was that shut­ting Par­lia­ment may be pos­si­ble, un­less ac­tion be­ing taken in the courts by anti-brexit cam­paign­ers suc­ceeded in the mean­time.

To­day, Mr Cor­byn is due to meet op­po­si­tion lead­ers to dis­cuss pos­si­ble de­vices to block a no-deal exit. Philip Ham­mond, the for­mer chan­cel­lor, is lead­ing a group of for­mer min­is­ters.

Last night the Labour leader said he was ready to con­sider all op­tions to “stop the no-deal Brexit dis­as­ter in its tracks”. In an in­ter­view with The In­de­pen­dent, Mr Cor­byn said he would do “ev­ery­thing nec­es­sary” to stop no deal, adding: “I’ll dis­cuss all these op­tions with the lead­ers of other op­po­si­tion par­ties. I hope we can come to a good work­ing ar­range­ment and bring on board oth­ers across par­lia­ment who see the dan­ger of a no-deal crashout.”

As the G7 sum­mit in Biar­ritz, France, closed yes­ter­day Boris John­son said he was now ‘marginally more op­ti­mistic’ about the prospects of reach­ing a Brexit agree­ment with the EU

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