Boris Johnson is reportedly set to tell the EU that his Brexit deal – something he once branded ‘fantastic’ – is ‘contradictory’ and does not make sense.
The prime minister is now arguing that the Withdrawal Agreement is legally ambiguous and would leave Northern Ireland isolated from the rest of the UK, something he says was ‘unforeseen’ when he signed up to it last year.
A Number 10 spokesperson said the UK internal market and the peace process would be ‘compromised by unintended consequences’ if it was not changed.
He said the legislative changes were a necessary ‘safety net’ in the event that they were unable to come to an agreement.
The spokesman said: ‘As a responsible government, we cannot allow the peace process or the UK’s internal market to inadvertently be compromised by unintended consequences of the protocol.
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‘So we are taking limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the Northern Ireland protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity and to ensure the government is always able to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.’
In a letter to Conservative supporters, Johnson said he ‘will not back down’ over his disagreements but said he was still hoping for a deal.
He explained: ‘We cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it.’
Meanwhile, the UK’s chief negotiator has called for ‘more realism’ from the EU saying the two sides ‘can no longer afford to go over well-trodden ground’ in the deadlocked talks, as he warned progress must be made this week to get an agreement in place for the end of the transition period.
David Frost said: ‘We have now been talking for six months and can no longer afford to go over well-trodden ground.
‘We need to see more realism from the EU about our status as an independent country.’
He said the UK’s position derives from the ‘fundamentals of being a sovereign state’ and called for the EU to ‘fully recognise this reality’.
‘If they can’t do that in the very limited time we have left then we will be trading on terms like those the EU has with Australia, and we are ramping up our preparations for the end of the year,’ Frost added.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned there could be no backtracking by the UK on its previous commitments if it wanted to reach a free trade agreement.
‘I trust the British government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law and prerequisite for any future partnership,’ she said.
‘(The) protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island and integrity of the single market.’
Chris Bryant, a Labour MP, slammed Johnson for advocating the deal and then rowing back on the document.
‘My suspicion is he never read it in the first place, because he’s not a man for detail,’ he told Sky News.