Wed, Oct 09, 2019 - Page 6 News List

UK says chances of Brexit deal slim

MORE ‘REALISM’ NEEDED:Downing Street said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had told the prime minister over the telephone that ‘a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely’

AP, LONDON

The British government yesterday said that the chances of a Brexit deal with the EU were fading fast, and blamed EU intransigence for the breakdown, but the bloc denied changing its stance, and a top EU leader accused UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of playing a “stupid blame game.”

Johnson’s office gave a gloomy assessment after a call between Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday morning.

In a statement to British media, Downing Street said that Merkel had told the prime minister that “a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely” unless Northern Ireland remains in a customs union with the EU — something the UK says it cannot allow.

Downing Street said that “if this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible not just now but ever.”

The German government confirmed that the two leaders had spoken by telephone.

It did not comment on the substance of the discussion, saying in an e-mailed response to a query that “as usual, we are not reporting on such confidential conversations.”

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said that “the EU position has not changed. We want a deal. We are working for a deal with the UK.”

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted testily that “what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game.”

“At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people,” he said, addressing Johnson. “You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?” — a Latin phrase meaning “where are you going?”

EU leaders have demanded more “realism” from Britain in response to a Brexit plan proposed by Johnson.

The bloc says the proposals do not fulfil the UK’s commitment to a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Johnson, meanwhile, has urged the bloc to compromise.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the EU would assess by Friday whether a deal is possible.

Johnson insists the UK will leave the EU on Oct. 31 even without a deal.

Many economists say that will disrupt British trade and plunge the country into recession.

Yesterday, Britain published more details of its plans for a no-deal Brexit, which the government says can minimize any economic shock from leaving without a deal — but major business groups warn that no amount of preparation can eliminate the pain of new barriers with the EU, which accounts for almost half of UK trade.

Many in the EU — and in Britain — are skeptical that Britain will leave the bloc on Oct. 31, because the UK Parliament has passed a law compelling the government to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit if no deal is agreed upon by Oct. 19.

Johnson says he will obey the law, but will not ask for a delay.

It is not clear how those two statements can bd reconciled — but it is clear Johnson wants to pin the blame for any delay on Parliament and the EU, so that he can campaign as a champion of Brexit in a UK election that is likely to be called soon.

Keir Starmer, Brexit spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party, said the Downing St. statement was “yet another cynical attempt by No. 10 to sabotage the negotiations.”

“Boris Johnson will never take responsibility for his own failure to put forward a credible deal. His strategy from day one has been for a no-deal Brexit,” he said.

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