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