France said to see no-deal as likeliest scenario

A no-deal Brexit is now ‘becoming the most likely’ Brexit scenario Elysée sources have reportedly said.

Several news articles are circulating about the comments, attributed to an Elysée official; the original source was the Reuters news agency. We have tried to obtain confirmation but have not yet received it.

This comes after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to EU Council President Donald Tusk saying the EU must reopen the Brexit negotiation agreement and remove the ‘Irish backstop’ which had been requested by his predecessor Theresa May as the best solution to keep the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland open after Brexit.

The EU has repeatedly said all this year that the withdrawal agreement is now closed and only the political declaration on the future relationship can be renegotiated.  

“If the United Kingdom considers that having a backstop is absolutely excluded, that is its right, but in that case it limits the possibility of reaching an agreement,” the official reportedly said.

Mr Tusk, who is expected to meet Mr Johnson face to face on Sunday during a G7 summit in Biarritz, has already poured cold water on the demands, saying on Twitter that demanding the backstop's removal while there are no realistic alternatives will mean a hard border – something that is ruled out in the Good Friday Agreement which established an end to the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland 19 years ago.

“Have no doubt that the French and German positions — and elsewhere — are the same. There’s not the thickness of a cigarette paper between us,” the French official reportedly added.

Mr Johnson has been meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today and will meet President Macron tomorrow.

The 'backstop' refers to the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU until such a time as new high-tech arrangements can be found to keep goods flowing over the border with no physical checks, despite the fact that the border will be between an EU and a non-EU country.

The withdrawal agreement, which was approved by the May government but voted down by the MPs, includes a pledge to aim if possible to find such alternatives during the transition period to the end of 2020 which is allowed for in the agreement (if there is a no-deal exit there will be no transition period). The 'backstop' arrangements would, in that case, never take effect and current arrangements would continue during the transition period.

The EU had originally proposed a backstop solution limited to Northern Ireland but this was notably opposed by Northern Ireland's DUP party which shores up the Conservative Party's majority in Parliament.

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