Boris Johnson urges EU to accept deal but maintains vow to leave on October 31

6 October 2019, 09:08

The Prime Minister speaking at the Conservative Party Conference
The Prime Minister speaking at the Conservative Party Conference. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson claimed he has heard “positive noises” about his Brexit proposal as he urged Brussels to "grasp the opportunity" the deal provides.

The Prime Minister repeated his vow not to delay the UK's departure from the EU, insisting Britain will pack its bags and walk out on October 31.

But Mr Johnson said it remains to be seen whether Europe will "cheerily wave us off" with a deal or whether “we will be forced to head off on our own.”

Describing his blueprint for an agreement as a "practical compromise that gives ground where necessary", the PM said it represents the UK "jumping to the island in the middle of the river".

Writing in the Sun on Sunday, Mr Johnson added: "If we're to leave with a deal, we now need the EU to jump over from its side and join us there, showing its own willingness to do a deal that the UK Parliament can support."

Mr Johnson stands by his vow that the UK will leave the EU on October 31
Mr Johnson stands by his vow that the UK will leave the EU on October 31. Picture: PA

But the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier poured scorn on the chances of the new proposal succeeding, reportedly telling an event in Paris: "If they do not change, I do not believe, on the basis of the mandate I have been given by the EU27, that we can advance."

In comments reported by The Observer, he also reiterated the EU's claim that a no-deal outcome would "never be Europe's choice... it would always be the UK's choice, not ours".

The PM, meanwhile, described Jeremy Corbyn as a "serial wannabe Brexit-wrecker", but said he has been encouraged to discover not all MPs are "so recalcitrant" in backing the proposal.

"MPs from every wing of my own Conservative Party, from Northern Ireland's DUP, even from Jeremy Corbyn's own ranks, have said that our proposed deal looks like one they can get behind," Mr Johnson said.

"Where the previous Withdrawal Agreement, backstop and all, drove an almighty wedge through the heart of Parliament, I have heard positive noises from across the House."

He said it will be more likely for the EU to accept Britain's "outstretched hand" and make that "leap on to the island" if he is armed with a set of proposals MPs support.

He added: "So I say to our European friends: grasp the opportunity that our new proposal provides. Join us at the negotiating table in a spirit of compromise and co-operation. And let's make Brexit work for both sides.

"We are leaving in 25 days. We can do it with a deal if the EU is willing.

"But they should be under no illusions or misapprehensions. There will be no more dither. No more delay. On October 31 we are going to get Brexit done."

Irish premier Leo Varadkar gave a glimmer of hope to Mr Johnson as he said a deal could be secured in the next two weeks, but he cautioned the current proposals do not form the basis for "deeper negotiations".

Speaking in Dublin on Saturday evening, Mr Varadkar said next Friday would be a reasonable cut-off point to get a deal done ahead of the following week's summit in Brussels - though he added an extra 24 or 48 hours could be made available for last-minute talks.

He said: "I think a deal is still possible... It is possible at the European Council summit in two weeks' time but the current position as of today is the European Union, including Ireland, doesn't feel that the proposals put forward by Prime Minister Johnson yet form the basis for deeper negotiations."

That came after the European Commission said on Friday EU member states agree the proposals "do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement".

A spokesman said discussions between the two sides would not take place this weekend, as had been anticipated, and instead the UK will be given "another opportunity to present its proposals in detail" on Monday.

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