LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is “ready and willing” to do a deal to leave the European Union if Brussels renegotiates the agreement, a senior government source said on Tuesday, denying that a no-deal Brexit was Prime Minister Boris Johnsons central plan.
FILE PHOTO: The British union flag and the EU flag are seen flying near the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Johnson, who took over as prime minister two weeks ago, has taken a hard line with the EU, demanding that it show willingness to change the deal it agreed with his predecessor before negotiations can restart to secure Britains smooth departure from the bloc.
His insistence that Britain is boosting preparations to leave without a divorce agreement if Brussels refuses to renegotiate has spooked markets, sent the pound tumbling and prompted some lawmakers to suspect a no-deal Brexit is his ultimate goal.
A report in The Guardian newspaper cited EU diplomats as saying they believed a no-deal Brexit was the “UK governments central scenario”.
The government source said this was not the case, but the EU had to understand that Johnson could not again bring forward the deal that was rejected by Britains parliament three times, leading to the resignation of his predecessor Theresa May.
“We want a deal. Its sad that they dont want to negotiate with us,” the source said, on condition of anonymity.
“The fact that the Withdrawal Agreement has been rejected by large margins by the House of Commons on three occasions means that, if theres going to be a deal, they have to be prepared to renegotiate. Were ready and willing to do so.”
Johnson has said Britain will leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.
His government says the only way to secure a deal would be to ditch the Irish backstop – an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of border controls between EU-member Ireland and Britains province of Northern Ireland that were ended by the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
The Withdrawal Agreement May struck in November with the EU says the United Kingdom will remain in a customs union “unless and until” alternative arrangements are found to avoid a hard border. Many British lawmakers oppose being bound to EU rules and customs duties post-Brexit.
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