Downing Street has insisted the EU must “change its stance” to secure a Brexit deal, as officials in Brussels reportedly suggested Britain is focused on a no-deal exit.
Prime minister Boris Johnson wants to hold fresh talks to negotiate a new agreement but a “rethink” is needed by the EU over the “current refusal” to make any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, Number 10 added.
The warning came after reports emerged about a briefing to diplomats in Brussels following a meeting between Johnson’s top Europe adviser David Frost and senior EU figures.
Frost was sent to Brussels to deliver the message that the UK will be leaving on October 31 “whatever the circumstances”.
A no-deal Brexit appears to be the UK government’s “central scenario”, according to a senior EU diplomat quoted by the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian, following last week’s talks.
They are reported to have said: “It was clear UK does not have another plan. No intention to negotiate, which would require a plan. A no deal now appears to be the UK Government’s central scenario.”
Since taking power, Johnson has ordered planning for a no-deal Brexit to be ramped up – despite claiming the odds of it happening are a “million to one against”.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The PM wants to meet EU leaders and negotiate a new deal – one that abolishes the anti-democratic backstop.
“We will throw ourselves into the negotiations with the greatest energy and the spirit of friendship and we hope the EU will rethink its current refusal to make any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.
“The fact is the Withdrawal Agreement has been rejected by Parliament three times and will not pass in its current form so if the EU wants a deal, it needs to change its stance.
“Until then, we will continue to prepare to leave the EU on October 31.”
The reports came after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would call for a vote of no confidence in the government this autumn in an attempt to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Corbyn said the party would do this “when we can win it”, but added it would be at an “appropriate very early time”.
Johnson said the “last thing” he wanted to do was call a general election.
Health secretary Matt Hancock also issued a fresh warning to rebel Tory MPs that they cannot stop Johnson taking Britain out of the EU without a deal.
Speaking on a visit to Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, Corbyn said: “We will do everything to stop no deal including a no-confidence vote at the appropriate very early time to do it.
“The prime minister seems to be trying to slip no deal through, slip past parliament and slip past the British people.
“Sorry, no deal will be really serious.”
Asked whether he would be preparing to fight a general election based on Labour winning a vote of no confidence, the prime minister said: “No. The answer is no.
“The people of the UK voted in the election 2015, they had a referendum in 2016, and another election in 2017.
“They want us to deliver what they asked for – and that is for us to leave the EU. The last thing I want to do is call another election.”
At an earlier briefing for political journalists at Westminster, the prime minister’s spokesperson repeatedly refused to be drawn on what the government would do if MPs voted against no deal, saying it was a “hypothetical” question.
“The legal default, as put in place by Parliament, is that we will be leaving on October 31,” the spokesperson said.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?