Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Reasonable chance UK will get a Brexit deal... mood in the EU has changed' - Boris Johnson

  • 'UK can easily cope with a no-deal Brexit scenario' - says Boris Johnson
  • 'He needs no advice, he's the right man for the job' - Donald on Boris
  • G7 leaders hold full day of talks amid divisions
  • Trump paints picture of unity at prickly G7 summit
  • US-China trade war risks damaging global economy
  • EU leaders to urge Trump to dial down the tensions
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during interviews at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France August 25, 2019. Andrew Parsons/Pool via REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during interviews at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France August 25, 2019. Andrew Parsons/Pool via REUTERS
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson hold a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Pool
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Dylan Martinez/PA Wire
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Dylan Martinez/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Dylan Martinez/PA Wire

Denise Calnan, Crispian Balmer and Richard Lough

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there is a "reasonable chance" the UK will get a Brexit deal and noted that the "mood" in the EU has changed in the last week.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly said the UK will leave the EU on 31 October, deal or no-deal.

Speaking in interviews with Sky News, BBC and ITV today from the G7 summit in France, Mr Johnson said the chances of a Brexit deal "are improving".

He said the UK "can easily cope with a no-deal Brexit scenario", adding that it was "highly unlikely there would be food shortages".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

"The likelihood of a Brexit deal depends on our EU friends and partners," Mr Johnson said.

When pressed on the chances, he said; "I think it's going to be touch and go. But the important thing is to get ready to come out without a deal."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Responding to US President Donald Trump's offer of a trade deal with Brexit Britain, Mr Johnson said it is a "very fast timetable" to do a deal within a year, but it is an exaggeration to say a US trade deal would take "years and years".

Facing accusations from political opponents of being out at sea over his Brexit strategy, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson strode into the Atlantic Ocean for a bracing dip on Sunday before tackling trade talks with western allies at a G7 summit.

Johnson plunged into the waters off Biarritz flanked by French soldiers and with Britain's ambassador to France, Ed Llewellyn, in tow, a Johnson aide said.

Better known for his fondness of cycling before entering 10 Downing Street, Johnson swam around a rocky outcrop several hundred metres off a Biarritz beach.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Dylan Martinez/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Dylan Martinez/PA Wire

"Let me give you a metaphor," Johnson told ITV. "I swam round that rock this morning. From here you cannot tell there is a gigantic hole in that rock. There is a way through."

"My point to the EU is that there is a way through, but you can't find the way through if you just sit on the beach."

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

With a deepening political crisis at home, Johnson is making his international debut at a gathering of G7 leaders in the French resort of Biarritz, less than three months before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union.

The UK Prime Minister's comments came as he faced a backlash over reports he had sought legal advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox about temporarily shutting down Parliament - known as prorogation - for five weeks from September 9.

The Observer reported that the move would allow for a Queen's Speech, starting a new parliamentary session, on October 14.

Such a move would keep MPs away from the Commons until shortly before the European Council summit of EU leaders on October 17, potentially preventing moves to block a no-deal Brexit.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A Government source added: "The claim that the Government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false."

But Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "If Boris Johnson can find a kooky or irregular way to shut Parliament out of the Brexit process, it will be an outrage."

Delicate path

Caught between European and U.S. thinking, Johnson was treading a delicate path, needing to avoid angering a volatile Trump and risking trade ties while not alienating himself from other leaders who have a more multilateral approach to world politics.

Earlier, U.S. President Donald Trump told Boris Johnson that Brexit Britain will have a major trade deal with the United States, adding that the new British prime minister was the right man to take his country out of the European Union.

Johnson, who faces a delicate task keeping European allies on side whilst not angering Trump at a G7 summit in France, said trade talks with the United States would be tough but there were huge opportunities for British businesses in the U.S. market.

Asked what his advice was for Brexit before going into a bilateral meeting with Johnson on the summit sidelines, Trump said: "He needs no advice he is the right man for the job."

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said he was getting along well with his Western allies at a G7 summit in France, dismissing reports of rifts among leaders as they prepared to discuss global trade woes.

The G7 gathering is taking place against a backdrop of growing worries about a global economic downturn and coincides with an era of international disunity across an array of issues that have strained decades-old allegiances.

"Before I arrived in France, the Fake and Disgusting News was saying that relations with the 6 others countries in the G-7 are very tense, and that the two days of meetings will be a disaster," Trump wrote on Twitter shortly before meeting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"Well, we are having very good meetings, the Leaders are getting along very well, and our Country, economically, is doing great - the talk of the world!"

However, major policy differences over trade protectionism, climate change, Iran and France's push for a universal tax on digital technology giants clouded the run-up to the summit in the Atlantic coastal resort of Biarritz.

Trump arrived in France just hours after escalating his trade war with China in a tit-for-tat battle between the world's two largest economies that has spooked financial markets.

"I am very worried about the way it's going, the growth of protectionism, of tariffs that we're seeing," the UK's Johnson said on Saturday.

"Those who support the tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy, irrespective of whether or not that is true."

Underlining the discord, Trump also threatened his host on the eve of the summit, saying the United States would tax French wine "like they've never seen before" unless Paris dropped a digital tax on U.S. technology companies.

Leaping into the fray, European Council President Donald Tusk, who takes part in the G7 discussions, warned the EU would respond "in kind" if Trump acted on his threat.

"This may be the last moment to restore our political community," Tusk told reporters on Saturday, giving a bleak assessment of Western relations.

Looking to broaden the scope of the debate, Macron has invited several African leaders to discuss the problems facing their continent, while leaders from India, Australia, Chile and Spain are due to attend a dinner on Sunday where the focus will be on the environment and other issues.

Trump up-ended last year's G7 summit in Canada, walking out of the meeting early and disassociating himself from the final communique having initially endorsed the document.

The delegations had barely arrived in Biarritz before differences were exposed, with senior U.S. officials accusing the host, French President Emmanuel Macron, of looking "to fracture the G7" by focusing on "niche issues" rather than major global concerns.

France denied this, pointing to Sunday's initial session covering the economy, trade and security - areas that used to draw easy consensus but are now sources of great friction.

Overnight, Trump wrote on Twitter that lunch with Macron was the best meeting the pair had yet had, and that a meeting with world leaders on Saturday evening also "went very well."

France has got around the communique problem by doing away with the time-honoured document, deciding it was not worth even trying to find common language.

While the transatlantic rift is the most stark, there are also deep divisions within the European camp, with Johnson making his G7 debut at a time when he is struggling to persuade EU capitals to renegotiate Britain's exit from the bloc.

Johnson and Tusk, who are due to talk on Sunday, sparred ahead of the meeting over who would take the blame if Britain leaves the EU on Oct. 31 without a Brexit agreement acceptable to both sides.

"I still hope that PM Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr No Deal," said Tusk, who leads the political direction of the 28-nation EU.

Johnson later retorted that it would be Tusk himself who would carry that mantle if Britain could not secure a new withdrawal agreement.

Macron added to the internal EU strains by unexpectedly threatening on Friday to block an EU trade deal with a group of South American states over Brazil's handling of fires that are ravaging the Amazon rainforest.

Germany and Britain both voiced deep concern about the fires, but disagreed with Macron on how to respond, saying shooting down the ambitious Mercosur trade accord would not help save the Amazon.

Additional reporting: PA

Reuters

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