Fri. Oct 30th, 2020
Boris Johnson 'will not back down' amidst growing Brexit stand-off with EU
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A defiant Boris Johnson today said “I will not back down" amidst a growing stand-off with the European Union.

The Prime Minister made the comment in a Tory Party email ahead of the start of the eighth round of Brexit talks on a trade and co-operation treaty with the EU on Tuesday.

It comes as Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European commission, warned Mr Johnson not to break international law following claims that <a href="/news/politics/brexit-override-brexit-withdrawal-agreement-a4541371.html" class="body-link" data-vars-item-name="BL-4541896-" data-vars-event-id="c23">Downing Street is planning to overwrite parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.</a>

Mr Johnson has set a five-week deadline to either reach agreement or for both sides to accept there will be no deal when the current transition period ends at the close of the year.

An email from the PM this afternoon, sent out by the Conservative Party, said in its headline: “I will not back down”.
(Conservative Party)

Mr Johnson added: “If we can’t agree by then [October 15], then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.

“We’ll then have a trading arrangement with the EU like Australia’s. I want to be absolutely clear that, as we have said right from the start, that would be a good outcome for the UK.

“As a Government we’re preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it.”

He said the UK would have “full control” over laws, rules, fishing waters and the freedom to do trade deals with every country in the world, adding: “We will prosper mightily as a result.”

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Signing off, the Prime Minister said he would be “delighted” if the EU “rethink their current positions” but added: “We cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it.”

The email was sent out after it was reported that the Government was preparing to overwrite parts of the Withdrawal Agreement that the Prime Minister had signed just months ago.

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It has sparked a clash with the EU over concerns that the UK could walk away from the Northern Ireland protocol – aimed at ensuring there is no return of a hard border with the Republic – if talks on a free trade deal fail.

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EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he was “worried” while the Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney warned that it would be “a very unwise way to proceed”.

Ms von der Leyen warned there could be no backtracking by the UK on its previous commitments if it wanted to reach a free trade agreement.
Ursula von der Leyen (REUTERS)

She said: “I trust the British Government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law and prerequisite for any future partnership.

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"[The] protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island and integrity of the single market."

Downing Street played down the row, saying the proposal was a “safety net” in case EU-UK trade talks fail.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the Government was proposing "limited clarifications" to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of no deal.

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<aside class="inline-block inline-related item-count-5 align-right"><h2 class="box-title">Read more</h2>

</aside>The Internal Market Bill - to be tabled on Wednesday - will ensure goods from Northern Ireland continue to have unfettered access to the UK market while making clear EU state aid rules - which will continue to apply in Northern Ireland - will not apply in the rest of the UK.

In addition, an amendment to the Finance Bill will give ministers the power to designate which goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are considered "at risk" of entering the EU single market and are therefore liable to EU tariffs.

"As a responsible Government, we cannot allow the peace process or the UK's internal market to inadvertently be compromised by unintended consequences of the protocol," the spokesman said.

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"So we are taking limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the Northern Ireland protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity and to ensure the Government is always able to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland."

A UK official added: "If we don't take these steps we face the prospect of legal confusion at the end of the year and potentially extremely damaging defaults, including tariffs on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland."

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Although the UK formally left the EU in January, it has continued to follow rules set in Brussels during a transition period - which ends on 31 December - while discussions over a long-term trade agreement continue.

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