EU wonders which Boris Johnson will come to Brexit talks

* New British PM desires Irish backstop axed from Brexit deal

* Johnson ready to go forward with no-deal break up if needed

* EU negotiators uncertain how powerful or charming he will probably be

* EU officers demand particulars on backstop various

By Philip Blenkinsop and Michel Rose

BRUSSELS/PARIS, July 27 (Reuters) – The European Union is providing new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a cautious welcome, insisting it would take into account any detailed new concepts he has on Brexit however cautious lest his gambit is in the end responsible Brussels for a no-deal departure.

The 27 remaining EU members say publicly and privately that the divorce settlement, agreed with London however rejected thrice by Britain’s parliament, is closed.

Johnson says the Irish backstop, an insurance coverage towards a tough border on a brand new EU frontier between Eire and Northern Eire, have to be struck from that Withdrawal Settlement.

“He desires a deal with no backstop, which he himself is aware of would not work,” mentioned an EU supply who has been concerned in Brexit discussions. “They’ve to come back with a reputable concept.”

On the eve of his management victory, Johnson evoked the spirit of the moon touchdown 50 years in the past to say frictionless commerce on the Irish border was achievable after Brexit, which is because of occur on Oct. 31.

“October is across the nook. The moon mission was deliberate for a number of years. It may take 10 years to develop a technical answer,” mentioned an EU diplomat.

Johnson has spoken by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in addition to Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Fee, which has led the EU facet of Brexit talks.

The British chief has invites, however thus far no scheduled visits to satisfy his European counterparts earlier than a G7 assembly in France on the finish of August. Johnson’s itinerary thus far has targeted on Britain.

Johnson has mentioned he would favor an exit deal, however was keen to tug Britain out of the European Union on the finish of October with out one, ideally with each side retaining zero tariffs. EU sources dismiss the thought of such a mini-deal or managed no deal, missing a divorce invoice of over 30 billion kilos ($37.1 billion) and retaining sure perks of the only market.

“Say you need my automotive, however we won’t agree on the value. So that you say let’s have a mini-deal with the intention to drive it round for 2 years till we attain an settlement. Why would I settle for this?” an EU diplomat mentioned.


Johnson mentioned in a speech on Saturday, whereas additionally insisting the Irish backstop be ditched, that he had very pleasant relations with EU leaders and that Britain could be neither disengaged nor aloof and would attempt to clear up the issue.

Even when some are lukewarm in direction of Johnson, they welcome the tip of a two-month interval with no efficient British chief and say a stronger prime minister may be good.

“It would make a distinction. We do not know upfront. It may very well be like Nixon going to China,” an EU diplomat mentioned, referring to U.S. President Richard Nixon’s 1972 go to to Beijing that abruptly normalised U.S.-China relations.

One diplomat described Johnson as a chameleon.

“He has many aspects. He will be charming. Now he is put ahead the bully, however he’s able to performing in a different way.”

Many in Europe although are already downbeat.

Norbert Roettgen, an ally of Germany’s Merkel, mentioned in a tweet addressed to Johnson that “neither boastful speeches nor bullying” would make the EU abandon its ideas and unity.

Some EU diplomats and officers imagine Johnson is already bent on a no-deal Brexit, even when the present British parliament seems unlikely to just accept this and, within the view of many in Europe, it will devastate the UK economic system.

However the no-deal name could also be extra for home consumption.

“He desires to be divisive, clear, to speak to his base, most likely with a view to name an election quickly. We will not rule out an election earlier than October 31,” an EU diplomat mentioned, including {that a} bigger majority may make Johnson extra keen to just accept a compromise and push it via parliament.

A UK election marketing campaign may additionally seemingly see a ramping up of the blame sport, with Brussels the goal, even when EU officers insist compromises on the backstop and Brexit extensions at Britain’s request reveal EU flexibility.

“There will probably be a communication warfare … The reality is that blaming Brexit or a no deal on the EU could also be a great communication technique, but it surely’s merely not the fact,” an EU supply mentioned. ($1 = 0.8078 kilos) (Extra reporting by Paul Carrel in Berlin; Writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Modifying by Andrew Cawthorne)

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