Boris Johnson insisted a Brexit deal can be reached despite ramping up preparations for the UK to leave the European Union without one.
The Prime Minister rejected an assertion from his no-deal planning chief Michael Gove that the Government’s assumption was now that Brussels would not give ground on the terms of a deal.
Johnson said there was a “very good chance we can get a deal” but added that preparations for a no-deal exit were being made with “growing confidence”.
Downing Street indicated that Johnson believed Brussels would blink first in the Brexit stand-off by agreeing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement to make the wholesale changes requested by the Prime Minster.
On a visit to Faslane naval base in Scotland, Johnson said: “We are aiming for a new deal as I have said and that is what I think we can achieve with good will on all sides.
“But it has been the policy of the Government for a long time now to prepare for no deal, and that is what we are going to do with high hearts and growing confidence, we will prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
“If our friends and partners in Brussels will not change the Withdrawal Agreement, if they will not accommodate the will of Parliament which has said three times now that they cannot accept the backstop, then obviously you would expect us to get ready and that is what we will do.”
A Number 10 spokesperson said Johnson believed that the European Union would eventually agree to rewrite the divorce deal and remove the backstop, the contingency plan aimed at keeping the Irish border open if no alternative can be found.
“He has been clear that the backstop will be abolished”,” the spokesperson said.
“He remains confident the EU will stop claiming that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be changed but until that happens we must assume there will be a no-deal Brexit on October 31 and the Government’s central focus is preparing for that.”
The new Brexit war cabinet was meeting on Monday under Gove as the Prime Minister continued his engagements in Scotland.
The Exit Strategy committee – known as XS – comprises six senior ministers and will meet twice a week.
A major advertising campaign – reportedly costing up to £100 million – is also planned to raise public awareness of Brexit issues.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon condemned Mr Johnson’s plans for the Brexit public information campaign.
After the Daily Telegraph reported that he was planning to spend up to £100 million on the advertising, she said: “What a shameful waste of money – and all while Tory welfare cuts are driving people to foodbanks and public services are still bearing the pain of Tory austerity.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was “disgraceful” to spend the money on advertising for a “totally avoidable” no-deal Brexit while “four million people are in deep poverty”.
“Boris Johnson knows no deal will cost jobs but the Tories only care about the wealthy elite who fund them,” he said.
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