European Union rejects Johnson's demand to scrap Irish backstop

Craig Cheatham of Bridgnorth Cobbler

Craig Cheatham of Bridgnorth Cobbler

However, Tusk, who ostensibly represents the 27 European Union member states, has reacted angrily to Johnson's demands, reiterating that the backstop is an insurance policy to "avoid a hard border" on the island of Ireland.

"Irish foreign minister expressed concern to the UK Brexit minister at the lack of alternatives to the backstop in rime Minister's letter".

The document, seen by the PA news agency, disputes Mr Johnson's claims about the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish border.

The EU wants to ensure that its only land border with the United Kingdom after Brexit does not become a back door for goods to enter the EU's single market - which guarantees free movement of goods, capital, services and labour.

In a letter sent late on Monday to European Union leaders, including Tusk, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the controversial Irish border backstop, included in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May, must be scrapped as it was "unviable" and "anti-democratic".

"We think there's a big opportunity now for everybody to come together, take out that backstop and then.in the course of the negotiations on the free trade deal. which we're going to do after October 31, we will be bringing forward all the ways in which we can maintain frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border".

But European Council president Donald Tusk defended the measure and warned that those seeking to replace it would risk a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

In public comments, the European Commission said the Prime Minister had failed to put forward a "legal, operational solution" to the issue and had acknowledged that if one could be found it might not be ready in time.

The newspaper added that as the standoff played out between London and Brussels, the British government confirmed that its officials would stop attending most European Union meetings from September 1, two full months before Britain leaves the bloc on October 31. "Those who are against it and do not propose realistic alternatives actually support the reintroduction of a border".

The clause is designed as a default mechanism to remain in place "unless and until" it is superseded by alternative arrangements that ensure the same outcome.

But he's under mounting pressure to avoid a no-deal withdrawal from Europe, after leaked reports warned of food, fuel and medicine shortages and mayhem at the border if Britain crashes out.

In January, UK lawmakers backed an amendment by Conservative MP Graham Brady, supported by Theresa May's government, which called for "alternative arrangements" based on technological solutions to replace physical border checks and avoid a hard border.

"It does not set out what any alternative arrangements could be", a Commission spokeswoman said, and "recognises that there is no guarantee such arrangements would be in place by the end of the transitional period".

The clash comes as Johnson prepares to travel to Berlin and Paris, where he hopes to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to give ground in the search for a Brexit deal. "Even if they do not admit it".

Nothing new but it continues to lay down the path that we're headed as long as Boris Johnson continues to demand that the backstop needs to be removed.

In a note circulated to diplomats from the EU27, officials describe points made by Boris Johnson as "misleading" and "incorrect".