The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator has said he is not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario as he cannot meet Britain’s demands to scrap the Irish backstop.
Michel Barnier declared that the so-called backstop had to stay to protect the integrity of the EU’s single market while ensuring an open border in Ireland.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said: “I am not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario, but we should all continue to work with determination”, according to extracts of his article on the newspaper’s front page.
“The backstop is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.
Opposition lawmakers are planning to act next week to top no-deal in parliament.
Writing in the same newspaper, Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal planning, said that removing the option of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October would “diminish” the “chances of securing changes” to the Brexit deal that could get it passed through parliament.
Previous votes have indicated a majority in parliament opposing a no-deal Brexit, but Mr Johnson has said that backing opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn risked there being no Brexit at all.
“The fundamental choice is this: are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum? Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people – and plunge this country into chaos?” he told the Sunday Times.
“Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver on the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda? That’s the choice.”
The prime minister is seeking to renegotiate his predecessor Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement so that Britain can leave the bloc with a deal.
However the EU has disregarded Mr Johnson’s key demand – removal of the backstop to preserve an open Irish border – unless he finds an alternative which does a similar job.
It comes as Sajid Javid said that boosting Britain’s standing as a major international player post-Brexit will be a key objective of new government spending plans.
The chancellor intends to use his first set piece event since taking over the Treasury to highlight the UK’s presence on the global stage.
Ahead of the spending round announcement for 2020/2021 on Wednesday, Mr Javid said: “Across our history, Britain has thrived as an open, free-trading nation.
“As we leave the EU, we are deeply committed to playing a leading role on the global stage.
“That means bolstering alliances, celebrating our culture, building new trading relationships and making sure we can act when needed to keep our people safe.”
The spending round is set to see the UK’s diplomatic connections across the globe given a £90m injection. An initial £13m will go to support preparations for the UK’s G7 presidency in 2021.