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Boris Johnson news: UK to pull officials from EU meetings as Merkel rules out PM’s backstop demands

European Council president says PM 'not proposing realistic alternatives'

Adam Forrest,Benjamin Kentish,Chris Baynes
Tuesday 20 August 2019 12:05 BST
Tory chairman James Cleverly asks EU to 'look at reality' when it comes to backstop

Boris Johnson's demand that the EU agree to scrap the Northern Ireland backstop has been dismissed by European leaders.

European Council president Donald Tusk responded to a letter from the prime minister by suggesting that Mr Johnson was “not proposing realistic alternatives” to the backstop, while one French diplomat called his plan “a joke”. German chancellor Angela Merkel also insisted that the current Brexit deal could not be renegotiated. Labour said Mr Johnson’s letter was a “fantasyland wish list”.

It came as Donald Trump claimed the US and UK could move “rapidly” to a trade deal – but Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer vowed to “oppose” any trade deal if there was a hard border enforced in Ireland.

Here's how we covered developments as they happened:


Good morning and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of events at Westminster and beyond.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 08:15

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the government to immediately release its no-deal impact assessments. No 10 has refused to do so.

Here’s Benjamin Kentish with the latest on the row over Operation Yellowhammer.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 08:23

Donald Trump said he had held a “great discussion” with Boris Johnson over the phone on Monday.

The president tweeted about his chat with PM and said they talked “about Brexit and how we can move rapidly on a US-UK free trade deal”.

“I look forward to meeting with Boris this weekend, at the G7, in France!”

It came as a senior US politician warned that politicians could block a future deal if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has written to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo warning that Congress could work on a cross-party basis to block a deal if a hard border is introduced on the island of Ireland.

Schumer, in the letter also sent to foreign secretary Dominic Raab, said: “I write to express my inveterate opposition to any prospective trade deal with UK that either undermines the landmark Good Friday Agreement or facilitates a return to a hard border.”

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 08:26

Boris Johnson has been accused of having “no negotiating strategy” after repeating his Brexit demands for the backstop to be ditched in his first letter to Donald Tusk. 

Ashley Cowburn has the details.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 08:35

EU officials are not impressed by Boris Johnson’s four-page letter to Donald Tusk.

“It’s clear from the letter that renegotiation is the last thing the British government wants,” one told the POLITICO.

A French diplomatic official told the same website that replacing the backstop with a vague promise of “alternative arrangements” was “a joke”.

Another senior EU source told The Guardian that Johnson’s latest move was “a total moving of the goalposts on an issue of great importance”.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 08:43

School meal nutrition standards might have to be changed or scrapped if the government forces through a no-deal Brexit, according to reports.

Local authority planning documents given to the BBC show some councils believe that an expected rise in food prices and a possible shortage of fresh produce mean they may not be able to meet current nutrition standards.

A report by North Tyneside council warns that “special dietary requirements may be difficult to meet”, while advising schools to “increase use of tins and frozen goods”.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 08:48

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has written to the home secretary Priti Patel urging her to drop a plan to end freedom of movement for EU citizens on day one of a no-deal Brexit.

Here’s Ashley Cowburn’s exclusive story.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 09:06

Plenty of people responding to Boris Johnson’s latest tweet by pointing out that we’re bound to be arguing for Brexit for years – especially if there’s a no-deal exit.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 09:13

A readout from Leo Varadkar’s team of his phone call with Boris Johnson reveals the two leaders may have not agreed on much – but they have agreed to meet in Dublin in early September.

The British prime minister said the backstop would need to be removed from the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Irish prime minister said the agreement could not be reopened and “emphasised the importance of the legally operable guarantee to ensure no hard border and continued free trade on the island of Ireland”.

They agreed their teams “would maintain close contact over the coming weeks”.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 09:22

Diane Abbott has become the third shadow cabinet member to declare she would campaign to remain in the EU over any deal negotiated by her own party if there is a second Brexit referendum.

Here’s Lizzy Buchan with the details.

Adam Forrest20 August 2019 09:37

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