It’s up to EU to avoid no-deal Brexit, says foreign minister
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Britains foreign minister on Thursday pressed the European Union to amend the terms of Britains EU withdrawal agreement, saying Brussels would have to take responsibility for a no-deal Brexit if it does not compromise.
In an interview with Reuters during a visit to Mexico City, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the British government wanted to leave the European Union with a deal, but would do so without one if EU negotiators did not alter their stance.
“If the position from the EU is that the withdrawal agreement cant be changed – whether its add-ons or subtractions – full stop, which is their position today, then lets face it, they will be taking the decision to see the UK leave on no-deal terms, and thats a responsibility they will have to bear,” Raab said.
The European Union has said the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the previous British administration will not be re-opened, but the new government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants a contentious so-called Irish “backstop” scrapped.
A provision put forward by Brussels, the backstop aims to keep the border between the Republic of Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland open, and would oblige Britain to obey some EU rules if no alternative arrangement can be agreed.
Its opponents in Britains ruling Conservative Party view the measure as an unacceptable loss of U.K. sovereignty.
Raab said “the backstop, certainly in its current form, is undemocratic and its something that will have to be removed.”
The obvious alternative, Raab said, was to move towards an “operational backstop” that ensured that “any checks that are done wouldnt be at the border” but could be managed with “technology and goodwill and operational cooperation.”
The minister took a firm line when asked if there were any circumstances under which Britain would countenance not leaving the European Union on Oct. 31, as is currently foreseen.
“The prime ministers been very clear, well leave at the end of October, preferably with a deal with our EU partners,” Raab said. “But in any event, if they dont move, theres no movement or flexibility from the EU side, then well leave on whats called WTO (World Trade Organization) terms.”
Raab, who took office two weeks ago, was in Mexico as part of a visit to North America to strengthen Britains economic ties with the region. Arguing there were “huge opportunities” for trade and investment with Mexico, he said it was too early to forecast how quickly a joint free trade deal could be sealed.
Opinion polls suggest Brexit is putting strains on the stability of the United Kingdom.
A survey by polling firm YouGov of 892 Conservative Party members showed Brexit was more important to them than keeping Scotland and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, a poll published this week showed that there was more support in Scotland for leaving the United Kingdom than there was for staying part of it.
When asked whether Scotlands departure from the United Kingdom was a price worth paying for Brexit, Raab said: