Uk PM Boris Johnson last night warned France’s Emmanuel Macron not to be fooled into believing Britain will delay its departure from the EU. The Prime Minister said it was time to “push forward” to get a deal done in a telephone call with the president.
Now is the time for Brussels to match the huge compromises the UK has made in trying to find a way to break the deadlock, Mr Johnson insisted. Hopes of a new agreement being struck are on the brink of being dashed and Mr Macron has warned the government it only has days left to persuade Brussels it has a workable deal. Mr Johnson’s negotiating strategy has been undermined by the Remainer “surrender act” that forces him to ask for an extension if a new deal cannot be reached when EU leaders meet at a summit next week.
But the UK PM Boris Johnson told Mr Macron the EU should not be lured into the mistaken belief that the UK will stay in the EU after Oct 31 if the talks collapse.
He told the French president, one of the most hardline leaders involved in Brexit negotiations, that this is the final opportunity to secure a deal as all sides want.
But Mr Johnson said the EU must match the compromises that the UK has made in recent weeks if there was any hope of making that happen.
And he told Mr Macron there is more support in Parliament for his plan than the previous deal after the DUP and committed Brexiteers signalled they would back it.
A senior Number 10 source said: “This is the chance to get a deal done: a deal that is backed by parliamentarians and a deal which involves compromise on all sides.
“The UK has made a big, important offer but it’s time for the European Commission to show a willingness to compromise too.
“If not the UK will leave with no deal. The surrender act and its authors are undermining negotiations, but if EU leaders are betting that it will prevent no deal, that would be a historic misunderstanding.”
Mr Macron confirmed the deadline for reaching significant progress in the talks is the end of this week to allow time for the new package to go before EU leaders at a summit that begins on October 17.
”UK PM Boris Johnson presented his latest proposals,” an Elysee official said. “The President told him that the negotiations should continue swiftly with Michel Barnier’s team in the coming days, in order to evaluate at the end of the week whether a deal is possible that respects European Union principles.”
David Frost, the PM’s chief Brexit adviser, will continue technical talks with EU officials after discussions ended on Friday stalled.
Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told Eurocrats that evening that “member states agreed that the UK proposals do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”.
The Eurocrat then fired an early salvo in the blame game in Paris at the weekend, claiming that Britain would return with “different proposals” if it was serious about a deal.
“If they do not change, I do not believe, on the basis of the mandate I have been given by the EU 27, that we can advance,” he said.
Government sources said Mr Barnier was “trying to pile on the pressure” but insisted the government has not given up hope of securing a deal.
They said the “other side trying to push as hard as possible to make us compromise” but the government believes it is the EU’s turn to make concessions.
“We have made a massive offer” and if it does not work out it is down to Brussels.
UK PM Boris Johnson was expected to meet EU leaders for face-to-face talks this week but it is not clear if any meetings will now go ahead.
Hopes of early meetings with Germany’s Angela Merkel and Mr Macron were shattered when they refused to change their diaries in order to see him.
As well as speaking to Mr Macron yesterday by telephone, the PM also talked to Portuguese premier Antonio Costa and is expected to hold more discussions today.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, below, is also travelling to EU capitals today and tomorrow as the diplomatic effort continues.
Mr Barclay hinted the government is prepared to make some small compromises.
Under the new Brexit proposals Northern Ireland would apply EU rules on goods but stay in a customs territory with the UK.
Stormont would be given a vote on whether to back the system in 2021 when transition arrangements end and whether to remain in the new system four years later.
Mr Barclay told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “The key issue is the principle of consent, that’s why the backstop was rejected three times, that was the concern in terms of both sides in Northern Ireland not approving of the backstop.
“So the key is the principle of consent, now of course in the mechanism, as part of the intensive negotiations we could look at that and discuss that mechanism.”
It comes as Scotland’s highest court is expected to rule today on the latest case brought by Remain campaigners.
The Court of Session is being asked to spell out what sanctions would apply if ministers fail to comply with the so-called Benn Act that would force Mr Johnson to ask for an extension.
Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, will launch a fresh attempt to wreck the government’s chances of securing a new deal.
The Labour leader will meet counterparts from Westminster’s smaller parties, including the SNP’s Ian Blackford, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, to discuss their strategy.
But the group, which is opposed to no-deal, have been at war over the tactics they should deploy to stop UK PM Boris Johnson keeping his pledge to take the country out of the EU on October 31.
Mr Corbyn said: “Labour is continuing to lead cross-party efforts to prevent a damaging no deal. Today’s meeting will give us the chance to scrutinise the Government’s proposals together.
“The cross-party meeting will decide what next steps we can take together to hold the Government to account, and to ensure the Prime Minister adheres to the law in seeking an extension if no deal is reached by 19 October.”
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