Boris Johnson has issued a defiant warning to French president Emmanuel Macron as he made clear the UK will leave the European Union on October 31 despite speculation of a Brexit delay.
The prime minister spent the weekend talking to EU leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Portugal’s Antonio Costa, and is thought likely to travel to the continent later this week.
Downing Street warned Brussels it would be an “historic misunderstanding” to believe the so-called Benn Act could prevent a no-deal Brexit – despite being designed to do so.
A senior Number 10 source said if the European Commission did not show a willingness to compromise, the UK would leave without an agreement later this month.
During his call with Macron on Sunday, the PM was said to have made clear that it was the final opportunity to secure a deal – but that the EU must match the compromises the UK has made.
Johnson told his French counterpart that he wanted to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both sides – and that his new proposals commanded the support of parliamentarians, unlike Theresa May’s agreement, Number 10 said.
It is also understood that the government will consider publishing the full legal text, which has so far only been shared confidentially with Brussels, if it is deemed helpful to progress the negotiations.
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 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.”
Macron reportedly told the PM in the telephone call that the EU will decide at the end of the week whether a Brexit deal is possible.
In comments reported by the BBC, an Elysee official said: “The president told [Johnson] that the negotiations should continue swiftly with Michel Barnier’s team in coming days, in order to evaluate at the end of the week whether a deal is possible that respects European Union principles.”
Meanwhile, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government has “no plan” for what might happen if parliament blocks the UK leaving the EU at the end of the month.
He said delivering Brexit on October 31 was the “sole focus” of ministers, who he said would do “absolutely everything in our power” to meet the deadline.
It came as Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the government wanted to get into “intensive negotiations” with Brussels – and confirmed that discussions were taking place with opposition MPs to win support for the PM’s blueprint.