Johnson seeks Brexit breakthrough
Parliament’s month-long suspension to begin
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met his Irish counterpart in Dublin on Monday as he battles to salvage his hardline Brexit strategy and force an early election in the face of fierce opposition in Westminster.
Johnson held talks with Leo Varadkar amid an apparent stalemate in the Brexit process and as MPS look set to vote down his second bid for a snap poll next month. The British leader has vowed to take Britain out of the EU by October 31 with or without a formal divorce deal – despite warnings that the latter scenario would entail economic chaos.
He wants the bloc to scrap a special provision in the deal agreed by his predecessor Theresa May to keep the Northern Irish border open in all circumstances after Brexit, arguing “alternative arrangements” exist.
“I won’t say that we can do it all today, but I believe there is a deal to be done by October 18,” a characteristically upbeat Johnson said ahead of his first face-to-face talks with Varadkar since taking office in July.
He added that failing to find a compromise, resulting in Britain leaving the bloc without a deal, “would be a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.”
But Brussels and Dublin have insisted the so-called backstop mechanism must remain in place to guarantee no return to a hard border between EU member Ireland and Britishruled Northern Ireland, which suffered decades of deadly sectarian violence.
“The backstop continues to be a critical component of the withdrawal agreement, unless and until an alternative is found,” Varadkar said, standing beside Johnson.
“We are open to alternatives. But they must be realistic ones, legally binding and workable.”
And on early Monday, Johnson’s spokesman said the month-long suspension of the British parliament ordered by the prime minister in an apparent bid to stop MPS blocking his Brexit strategy would begin late Monday.
“Parliament will be prorogued at close of business today,” the spokesman said, using the parliamentary term for the suspension.
He added it would take place regardless of the outcome of a government-led vote on holding a snap election next month.
Johnson last month asked Queen Elizabeth II to close the Houses of Parliament until October 14, claiming it was needed to allow him to introduce a new domestic agenda.
But the suspension’s timing and longer than unusual duration sparked uproar across the political spectrum, with critics calling it a “constitutional outrage” and a coup.
Lawmakers opposed to a nodeal Brexit said it was clearly aimed at hobbling their efforts to prevent such a scenario, while it also prompted several so far unsuccessful court challenges.
However, the move appeared to backfire on Johnson by galvanizing opposition MPS and Conservative rebels into passing legislation forcing him to seek a Brexit delay next month if he has not reached a deal with the EU.