Brexit: Boris Johnson hits back at Donald Tusk over 'Mr No Deal' claim

24 August 2019, 11:24 | Updated: 24 August 2019, 15:25

Boris Johnson has hit back at Donald Tusk after the European Council president said he hoped the prime minister would not go down in history as "Mr No Deal".

Speaking at the G7 summit in France, Mr Tusk warned Mr Johnson he will not co-operate on a no-deal Brexit but added the EU was "willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all member states, including Ireland".

The prime minister has insisted the UK will leave the EU on 31 October "do or die" and he suggested on Saturday that a failure to reach a Brexit agreement would also reflect badly on Mr Tusk.

Mr Johnson said: "I have made it absolutely clear I don't want a no-deal Brexit.

"But I say to our friends in the EU if they don't want a no-deal Brexit then we have got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty.

"If Donald Tusk doesn't want to go down as 'Mr No Deal Brexit' then I hope that point will be borne in mind by him too."

Mr Tusk earlier said: "The EU was always open to co-operation when David Cameron wanted to avoid Brexit, when Theresa May wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit, and we will also be ready now to hold serious talks with Prime Minister Johnson.

"One thing I will not co-operate on is no-deal. I still hope that Prime Minster Johnson will not like to go down in history as 'Mr No Deal'."

Downing Street has been playing down any chance of a Brexit breakthrough, with the PM warning that people should "not hold their breath" on reaching an agreement.

The main stumbling block is the backstop, which was intended to be used to avoid the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if a UK-EU trade deal is not agreed.

The three-day summit of world leaders in the French seaside town of Biarritz comes amid a worsening trade war between China and the US, and attempts by European governments to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

The event is Mr Johnson's first international summit in the job and will bring him face-to-face with Mr Trump.

Mr Johnson said he was "very concerned" by the rising US-Chinese tensions. Asked if he would be telling the American president he should not escalate the trade war, the PM said: "You bet."

In a wide-ranging speech in France, Mr Tusk said:

  • Trade wars among G7 members will further erode trust between them
  • If Donald Trump is using tariffs as a political tool it could be risky for whole world
  • Summit will be a "difficult test of unity" after year where leaders found it hard to find common language
  • EU stands by deal with Mercosur [South American trade bloc]
  • But hard to imagine smooth ratification by member states if Brazil's government lets Amazon forest burn
  • G7 leaders should make one more push to come together over Iran
  • Under no condition can EU agree with Trump proposal to bring Russia back into G7

International issues such as climate change, inequality and security are likely to dominate the summit, attended by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US.

But it will also be chance for the prime minister to talk Brexit and trade on the global stage.

He is expected to tell Mr Trump that the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade deal.

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The US commander-in-chief arrived in Biarritz a day after imposing an extra 5% duty on $550bn (£442bn) in targeted Chinese goods in retaliation for a new round of tariffs by Beijing.

Mr Trump also repeated his threat to tax French wines in retaliation for a new French levy on digital services, which he says unfairly targets US companies.

Mr Tusk warned the EU would respond in kind if Washington attacked the digital tax.