British prime minster Boris Johnson has declared the “undemocratic” backstop arrangement “is dead” but insisted a Brexit deal can be reached.
This is despite ramping up preparations for the UK to leave the EU without one, he said yesterday.
He was speaking as he visited Scotland amid growing disquiet over the fact he has not yet spoken to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar since taking office seven six days ago.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, a spokesman for Mr Johnson said officials on both sides spoke on Monday and further calls with EU leaders are likely in the coming days.
When pressed whether did that meant Mr Varadkar, the spokesman merely repeated the statement that further calls are likely in the coming days.
Mr Johnson’s failure to contact the Taoiseach since becoming prime minister has been branded “discourteous and offensive” by Sinn Féin. In recent times, incoming UK prime ministers have placed a call with their Irish counterpart on the first day of assuming office.
Five days after his appointment as prime minister, Mr Johnson had not had a conversation with Leo Varadkar.
It comes amid heightened tensions between the UK and Irish governments over the Brexit stand-off.
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill accused Mr Johnson of “snubbing” Mr Varadkar.
Mr Johnson 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.
Mr 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”.
On a visit to Faslane naval base in Scotland, Mr 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 spokeswoman said Mr Johnson believed the EU would eventually agree to rewrite the divorce deal and remove the backstop, the contingency plan aimed at keeping the border open if no alternative can be found.
“He has been clear that the backstop will be abolished,” said the spokeswoman.
Mr Johnson secretly wants a no-deal Brexit, claimed Nicola Sturgeon after her first meeting with the new prime minister.
“After my discussions with Boris Johnson, behind all of the bluff and bluster, this is a government that is dangerous,” she said.“
"I think the path that it is pursuing is a dangerous one for Scotland and for all of the UK,” she said.
“He says publicly, and he said it to me again today, that he wants a deal with the EU, but there is no clarity whatsoever about how he thinks he can get from the position now where he’s taking a very hard line — the withdrawal agreement is dead, the backstop is dead.