MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – British PM Boris Johnson warned the European Union on Saturday that the Irish backslide, which he said was undemocratic, should be dropped if they wanted to sign a Brexit divorce treaty.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson responds to a meeting with engineering graduates at the site of a tram line under construction at Stretford near Manchester on July 27, 2019. Ben Stansall / Pool over REUTERS
Johnson, since taking office Wednesday, has repeatedly warned that he will cut Britain off without a deal on 31 October if the EU continues to refuse to renegotiate the readmission agreement agreed by its predecessor Theresa May.
His biggest demand is for the most controversial element of the Brexit divorce agreement – the Irish Border Stop – to be removed from the revocation agreement, a demand that has angered Ireland and disturbed other EU capitals.
"If we get rid of the whole backstop, we're making a lot of progress," Johnson said when asked if only the Irish backstop should be changed.
Johnson spoke in front of a 19th century steam locomotive Stephenson, in the northern English city of Manchester, and devoted most of his speech to improving public services, transport and the Internet, and promoting economic growth.
European leaders are ready to discuss Brexit with the new British head of state, but have so far insisted that they will not reopen the readmission agreement. Many EU diplomats believe that the UK will soon hold an early election.
Johnson said he did not want a no-deal Brexit that investors fear would send shockwaves through global markets and hurt the global economy, but the UK needs to prepare for a no-deal.
Ireland is critical to any Brexit solution or Brexit meltdown.
The Backstop is an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of border controls along the 500 km long land border between Ireland and the British Province of Northern Ireland, which were ended by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the issue of unification of Ireland and Northern Ireland would inevitably arise if the UK leaves the EU without a divorce agreement on October 31. Be withdrawn or distanced or wait for them to come to us. We will try to solve this problem and we will do it in a spirit of friendship and cooperation, "said Johnson.
"But we can not do it as long as this anti-democratic backstop, the backstop trying to divide our country, to share the UK, stays in its place," he said. "We have to get it out and then we can make progress, I think."
The readmission agreement with the EU in November states that the United Kingdom will remain in a customs union "if and until" alternative arrangements exist to avoid a hard border.
Many UK lawmakers are against the prospect of being bound by EU rules and customs that would prevent Britain from conducting its own commercial transactions and have EU judges oversee them.
Reporting by William James, Editor Guy Faulconbridge