UK PM says chances of Brexit deal with Brussels improving
LONDON, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday the chances of Britain reaching a Brexit deal with the European Union are improving.
He used interviews with a range of British broadcast media at the G7 summit in France to give a Brexit update as the Oct. 31 departure date gets ever closer.
In Britain politicians opposed to Britain remaining in the bloc, as well as those opposed to a no-deal departure, continued Sunday to discuss their strategies as the re-opening of Parliament on September 3 nears.
Johnson held talks in France with Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, their first face-to-face meeting since Johnson moved into 10 Downing Street.
Sky News reported Johnson told Tusk he would prefer Britain to leave the EU with a deal, and is willing to sit down with the EU, but branded the Irish border backstop issue as anti-democratic. Johnson also said he will not stop the British parliament from debating Brexit.
Sky said nothing substantive or new emerged in the talks between the two. An EU official said the two leaders will meet again on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York next month. The EU official also said the Brexit ball remains fully in Britain's court. During the meeting Tusk agreed Britain and Europe would remain close regardless of what happens after Oct. 31.
Johnson, in his interviews, continued to insist he plans to go ahead with Britain's departure by the Oct. 31, with or without a deal.
He told the BBC: "I think it's going to be touch and go, but the important thing is to get ready to come out without a deal.
"It all depends on our EU friends and partners, I think in the last few days there has been a dawning realization in Brussels and other European capitals what the shape of the problem is for the UK," he told the BBC.
Johnson said the chances of getting a deal with Brussels are improving, a reference to talks he held ahead of the G7 gathering with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Both agreed they would be prepared to give Johnson a limited time to come forward with new proposals on the Irish backstop, the insurance policy arrangement the EU has demanded to avoid a hard border being established on the island of Ireland.
Johnson said there has to be great deal of realism on part of Brussels that Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is dead.
"The text that (Britain's) parliament rejected three times cannot now be made to go through.
"Fundamentally, the problem with that Withdrawal Agreement is that it would keep us locked in EU's trading ... It would keep us locked in the EU's trading arrangements and in the lunar pull of EU law without being able to have a say. That's why it's totally unacceptable."
Johnson has also started to talk about the money side of Brexit, and the reported 39 billion pounds Britain would have to pay as a so-called divorce settlement when it leaves the bloc.
In an interview Sunday with Sky News, Johnson said: "I think what the entire European Union understands if we come out without a deal, the 39 billion pounds is not pledged. They understand that if there isn't a deal, then the 39 billion is no longer legally pledged."
Reports in London claimed Johnson had threatened to withhold 30 billion pounds (36.8 billion U.S. dollars) of the money Brussels is expecting to receive.
In London the Sunday Times said that Johnson, by threatening to slash the Brexit divorce bill, had put Britain on a general election footing.
The newspaper said Johnson's tough stance, intended to win over Brexit Party supporters, came as his team worked on a populist emergency budget in October, paving the way for a snap general election the same month.
The report claimed senior Conservatives Senior Tories say Downing Street has "wargamed" an election on Oct. 17, the same day that EU leaders meet to discuss whether to give Britain a new agreement to prevent a no-deal departure two weeks later.
The Times said the prospects of a majority for Johnson's Conservatives have grown this weekend with a new YouGov put the party on 33 percent, 12 points clear of Corbyn's Labour Party. It is the Conservative's largest lead with YouGov since the 2017 general election.
Medicine supplies to Britain would continue in the event of a no-deal, and he said he thought it highly unlikely there will be food shortages of any kind.