Johnson Insists Brexit Deal Can Be Reached

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, meets with Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Monday. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, facing growing opposition at home, told Ireland’s leader on Monday that a new Brexit deal can be reached so Britain can leave the European Union by the Oct. 31 deadline.

Speaking beside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Johnson said a deal on the Irish border question can be secured in time to enable a smooth British departure from the EU by the scheduled Brexit date.

He said a no-deal departure from the European Union would represent a “failure of statecraft” and that all sides would bear responsibility for that.

Johnson has said he will take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 even without a deal, but Parliament last week passed a bill that would force him to seek a delay from the EU if no deal is reached.

Johnson’s spokesman James Slack confirmed that the government will suspend the British Parliament on Monday until Oct. 14. He said Parliament will be prorogued at the close of the business day.

The suspension limits Parliament’s ability to block Johnson’s plans for Brexit.

During his press conference with Varadkar, Johnson did not explain how the stalemate can be broken in a way that satisfies the other 27 EU leaders and would win backing in Britain’s Parliament, where his party no longer has a working majority, as Johnson has expelled 21 members from the party, and others have left.

Johnson has been criticized in Britain for not producing plans to break the Brexit impasse, and Varadkar said that Britain has not produced any realistic alternatives to the backstop agreement reached by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, that would prevent re-imposition of border checks between Catholic Ireland, which would remain in the EU, and Northern Ireland, which would not.

Opposition to the backstop was a key reason why Britain’s Parliament rejected May’s Brexit deal with the EU three times this year.

Varadkar said a no-deal exit would cause severe economic problems for Ireland now that border checks have been eliminated for an extended period of time.

He said the EU does not want another extension of the Oct. 31 deadline but is willing to consider one if it is requested.

The Irish leader said more negotiations are needed and that the Good Friday peace agreement, which states that no hard border be re-imposed on the island of Ireland, must be respected.

The Dublin meeting was the first time the two leaders have met since Johnson took power in July.

Varadkar has said he does not expect an immediate breakthrough in the border impasse.

Johnson’s political position in Britain was greatly weakened last week, with the loss of his Conservative Party’s working majority in Parliament and the departure of some key party figures who sided with the opposition in key votes.

He planned to press a rebellious Parliament on Monday to back his plan for an early election, with the hope of winning a majority that would back his Brexit strategy, but opposition parties have said they will vote the measure down.

They want to make sure a no-deal departure is blocked before agreeing to an election.

Johnson has said he will not seek a delay despite the new bill that seeks to force him to do so. His government is studying the bill for loopholes that might allow a legal challenge.

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