Michel Barnier, above, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, on Thursday rejected the ultimatum given by Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, to hold fresh talks on Brexit or face the prospect of Britain leaving the bloc without a deal by October 31.
In his first speech in parliament after being elected prime minister, Johnson said the Irish border or backstop clause in the deal struck by his predecessor, Theresa May, is dead and will have to be scrapped.
Barnier said Johnson’s demand is unacceptable and it points to a no-deal Brexit.
The EU is hoping for an orderly Brexit and, to ensure this, the bloc will stick to certain principles and guidelines, he said.
The backstop is aimed at averting a hard border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member, after Britain leaves the bloc.
However, Brexiters like Johnson fear that if the backstop clause is agreed upon, it could indefinitely keep the UK in the bloc.
Before his parliamentary speech, Johnson asked his new ministers to make a no-deal Brexit their top priority.
On his country’s future after its exit from the EU, he said it will become the most prosperous economy in Europe in three decades.
This period will mark the “new golden age for the UK”, Johnson said, adding that he will make Britain “the greatest place on earth.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was not impressed. He said people do not believe Johnson is capable of making the right decisions. Months back, the same man had voted in favour of the backstop, he said.
Comparing Johnson to US president Donald Trump, Corbyn said the new prime minister overestimates himself.
Labour party will oppose any deal that fails to protect jobs, environment, and workers’ rights, he said.