The European Parliament's chief Brexit official is warning proponents of a no-deal divorce in Britain that the thorny issues that have hobbled discussions won't miraculously go away.
Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt said issues about the future relationship between Britain and the European Union will remain and perhaps prove more intractable in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
He said that ``people were thinking in Britain: 'oh yeah, we can do a no-deal and then we go sitting around the table and we are going to talk about a future relationship and everything will be fine'.''
Verhofstadt said that would ``be nuts. No way.''
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU at the end of the month.
The EU has been consistent in saying that in a no-deal scenario, the questions over citizens' rights, Britain's divorce bill and the Irish border will need to be sorted out before discussions over the future trading relationship begins.
European Council President Donald Tusk has angrily addressed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a tweet that Brexit is not ``some stupid blame game'' and directly asked him where he wants to take the fast deteriorating negotiations.
After Downing Street offered an extremely negative reaction to a phone call between Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Tusk quickly retorted that the EU-U.K. talks weren't about apportioning blame if the divorce turns out to be a chaotic and costly no-deal exit.
Tusk tweeted to Johnson: ``what's at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK.''
The British government says it still hopes to strike a Brexit deal with the European Union, despite mounting gloom on both sides of the Channel about the chances of success.
EU leaders have demanded more ``realism'' from Britain in response to a Brexit plan proposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The bloc says the proposals don't fulfil the U.K.'s commitment to a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
French President Emmanuel Macron says the EU will assess by Friday whether a deal is possible.
The British government says the U.K. will leave on Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal, and is taking steps to minimize the pain of a no-deal exit.
It's due to publish more details of planning for a no-deal Brexit on Tuesday.
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.
Court Papers Say UK's Johnson Would Seek Delay If No Deal
By Gregory Katz
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would seek an extension to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline if no withdrawal deal with the European Union is reached by mid-October, according to a document read aloud in a Scottish court Friday.
The government document quoted in Scotland's Court of Session indicated Johnson intends to comply with a law Parliament passed this month that requires the prime minister to ask the EU for a postponement if no deal is in place by Oct. 19.
The court statement is at odds with Johnson's continued insistence that he will not seek a Brexit extension under any circumstances. It is not clear how the government plans to resolve the difference between Johnson's public stance and the position taken in court.
Lawyer Andrew Webster, representing the British government, said the court documents are a ``clear statement'' of what the prime minister would do.
He was arguing in a court case brought by activists seeking a court order that would force Johnson to seek an extension. Webster said there is no need for a court intervention since the government has made its intentions known.
``What we have is a clear statement on behalf of the Prime Minister and government as to what it will do in respect to the requirements of the 2019 Act,'' he said, referring to the law passed last month instructing the government to seek a delay if no deal is reached.
He said the government still wants to leave the union on Oct. 31 and plans to do so.
Jo Maugham, a lawyer representing anti-Brexit activists in the case, tweeted that Johnson agreed in the document not to ``frustrate'' the law.
The British government submission also included the statement, ``he (Johnson) will send a letter in the form set out,'' the tweet stated.
``What we learned today is that the prime minister has promised the court, in his own name, that he will ask for an extension under the Benn Act if the conditions are satisfied,'' Maugham told Sky News.
The segments read in court contradict Johnson's repeated assertions on the crucial question of whether Britain, if unable to finalize a divorce deal with other EU countries by the end of the month, would leave the EU without an agreement.
Johnson has insisted he wouldn't ask the EU for an extension under any circumstances, saying colorfully he would rather be dead in a ditch, and vowed he will take the U.K. out of the EU as scheduled on Oct. 31, with or without an agreement.
His office did not offer an immediate response to the government submission read in court. Johnson has not said anything indicating a change in his position.
Conservative Party lawmaker Steve Baker, leader of a prominent pro-Brexit group in Parliament, said the court statement ``does not mean we will extend. It does not mean we will stay in the EU beyond Oct. 31. We will leave.''
Johnson's willingness to embrace a ``no-deal'' Brexit has alarmed many lawmakers since the government's own assessment of such a scenario warns of an economic slowdown, severe delays at British ports, and possible food and medicine shortages if ``no deal'' becomes a reality.
Talks between British and EU officials are continuing but key European leaders have already said they think the measures Johnson proposed this week fall far short of the concessions needed to forge a deal.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, whose country would be among the most directly impacted by Brexit, said Friday he thinks EU members would contemplate delaying Brexit if the British government gives a good reason for seeking another extension.
``I think we would consider that,'' he said.
Each of the 27 other EU nations would have to approve Britain's request before an extension could be granted.
Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed.
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.
UK Brexit Plan Gets Cool Reception in Brussels By Damon Wake & Anne-Laure Mondseret
Britain's new Brexit plan got a cool reception Wednesday in Brussels, where European officials highlighted problems and their chief negotiator warned it left "a lot of work" to be done.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker used a call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to share concerns about "problematic points" in the proposal, in particular London's proposed customs regime aimed at avoiding checks on the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
EU officials were careful not to dismiss the proposal out of hand, and pledged to continue talks, but there was widespread scepticism and concerns that the plan could leave Ireland exposed.
The EU's lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier gave a guarded welcome to the plan as he arrived at the European Parliament to brief its Brexit steering group.
"There is progress, but to be frank a lot of work still needs to be done," Barnier said.
The proposal is Britain's suggestion for how to do away with the so-called "Irish backstop", a safety net clause which Johnson's predecessor Theresa May signed up to but which the British parliament rejected.
With time fast running out to agree and ratify a new deal before Britain's October 31 departure day, Juncker acknowledged "positive advances" in the British offer, telling Johnson EU negotiators would now "examine the legal text objectively".
"He acknowledged the positive advances, notably with regards to the full regulatory alignment for all goods and the control of goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain," Juncker's office said in a statement.
The backstop agreed by May would have kept Britain temporarily aligned to EU customs rules, but it has been rejected by British MPs three times.
Under the new proposal, Northern Ireland would follow EU regulations and standards for all goods, including food and agricultural products, but would leave the bloc's customs zone to stick with the rest of the UK.
But the EU -- which has consistently insisted the backstop is needed to protect both the balance of peace in Northern Ireland and the integrity of the bloc's single market -- still has reservations.
Guy Verhofstadt, the head of the European Parliament's Brexit steering group, said the initial assessment of "nearly every member" of the committee "was not positive at all" because the proposal does not offer enough safeguards to Ireland.
He suggested the UK offer was not a serious attempt at reaching a deal but an effort to shift blame for failure to Brussels -- a concern harboured by many in Brussels since Johnson took office vowing to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 "do or die".
- Customs worries -
The commission statement on the Juncker-Johnson conversation said the EU chief "also noted that there are still some problematic points that will need further work in the coming days, notably with regards to the governance of the backstop."
It added: "Another concern that needs to be addressed are the substantive customs rules."
Johnson's plan allows the Northern Irish assembly to decide whether to extend this arrangement once "every four years", putting a potential time limit on the plan that the EU has previously rejected.
Juncker reiterated the EU stance that any replacement for the backstop must achieve the same ends.
"He also stressed that we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU's Single Market and Ireland's place in it," the statement said.
After tough talk from Downing Street that Johnson's offer would be "take it or leave it", there was a measure of relief among some in Brussels that it appeared instead to be the first move in a new phase of negotiations.
But one EU diplomat reiterated Juncker's reservations about the customs arrangements.
"It doesn't even look from a British point of view that it's ready for immediate use," the diplomat said.
"There is still a wide gap to be bridged, but whether this will succeed will only become clear in the next few days."
EU and British negotiators will meet for further talks in the coming days, the commission said, adding that the European Parliament and European Council -- which groups member states -- would be informed "every step of the way".
The commission also stressed that Juncker would consult Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar "and listen carefully to his views".
In Dublin, Varadkar voiced doubts, saying London's proposals "do not fully meet the agreed objectives" for keeping the border invisible and free-flowing.
UK's Johnson Rallies Party With Vow to 'Get Brexit Done' By Alice Ritchie
After a bruising week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered the warm embrace of his Conservative party's annual conference on Sunday vowing to "get Brexit done".
Despite a string of parliamentary setbacks and a defeat in the Supreme Court, Johnson insists he will take Britain out of the European Union next month, with or without a deal with Brussels.
"What we need to do is to move on. And the way to do that is to get Brexit done on October 31," he told BBC television in Manchester, northwest England, where the conference is taking place.
His tough stance has put him at odds with many of his own MPs in the House of Commons, who helped passed a law blocking a "no deal" exit -- an outcome they fear would be hugely disruptive.
But the tough talk resonates with the pro-Brexit party members who elected him in July, and who held up signs on the conference floor with the "Get Brexit Done" slogan.
In what is likely to be the centre-right party's final gathering before a general election, several ministers took the stage on Sunday repeating that only the Conservatives would deliver on the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU.
"While the difficulties caused by leaving without a deal will pass, the damage to our democracy in not getting Brexit done would endure and resound for much longer," said Michael Gove, the minister for Brexit preparations.
However, none of the ministers offered insight on how Johnson will overcome his main hurdle: getting a divorce deal with the EU in the next few weeks -- the only legal way to keep to the October 31 deadline.
- 'Model of Restraint' -
Johnson has had a turbulent two months in office, having suffered seven successive defeats in the Commons -- in the process losing his majority.
He expelled 21 Conservative MPs when they backed a law requiring him to ask EU leaders to delay Brexit if he cannot get a deal by a summit on October 17-18.
After the Supreme Court ruled his suspension of parliament unlawful, Johnson challenged opposition parties to bring down his government -- but they spurned the chance.
In response, he has accused MPs of "surrendering" to the EU.
His rhetoric drew accusations of stoking division, but he insisted Sunday he had been a "model of restraint".
Senior minister Jacob Rees-Mogg later won a standing ovation when he told conference: "Parliament is now holding the people in contempt."
The four-day gathering risks being disrupted by parliamentary business in London.
Opposition MPs were furious at Johnson's decision to suspend parliament for five weeks in early September -- a move the Supreme Court quashed on Tuesday -- and refused to agree to the normal conference recess.
Some are threatening manoeuvres from Monday that could force ministers to race back to Westminster.
- Polls, but protests -
Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says he wants an election but will do nothing to bring it about until a "no deal" Brexit is no longer possible.
But with parliament deadlocked, most commentators expect an election in the coming months -- and there is evidence that Johnson's stance is winning votes.
Two surveys this week, by YouGov and Opinium, put the Conservatives 11 and 12 points ahead of Labour, fuelled by the support of pro-Brexit voters.
The party also unveiled new health spending on Sunday, with further pre-election pledges expected over the coming days.
- 'Full propriety' -
Several thousand people protested outside the conference on Sunday against years of public spending cuts and the prime minister's stance on Brexit.
"He's weak, he's scaremongering and spreading hate," said Emily Barr, a 22-year-old charity worker from Sheffield.
In a further headache for Johnson, a police watchdog is looking into whether he should face investigation over his links to a US tech entrepreneur.
The Sunday Times newspaper alleged he was having an affair with former model Jennifer Arcuri while he was London mayor.
It claims he failed to declare a series of potential conflicts of interest over benefits provided to her business.
The premier insisted on Sunday: "Everything was done with full propriety."