Brexit news: Boris Johnson could back Theresa May EU exit deal if Ireland backstop changed | UK | News

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The former Foreign Secretary has previously been a fierce opponent of Mrs May’s deal. Writing before the vote he termed it a “wretched text” and “the worst of both worlds”. On January 15, Parliament rejected the deal by a record margin.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph Mr Johnson urged the Prime Minister to seek concessions on the backstop.

He commented: “If the PM secures that change – a proper UK-sized perforation in the fabric of the backstop itself – I have no doubt that she will have the whole country full-throatedly behind her.

“If we mean it, if we really try, I have no doubt that the EU will give us the freedom clause we need.

“So now is the time to stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood and go back to Brussels and get it.”

Under the terms of the Northern Ireland backstop the UK will automatically fall into a customs union with the EU if a new trading arrangement can’t be agreed during the transition period, currently set at 21 months.

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If this happens Britain will struggle to sign fully comprehensive trade agreements with third countries, and will still have to adhere to a significant proportion of EU regulations whilst having a reduced say over its content.

Controversially, the UK may not be able to leave the customs union backstop with the EU’s express permission.

The backstop is designed to avoid a hard-border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which could violate the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended conflict in the province.

In his article Mr Johnson said he’d heard “from the lips of very senior sources” that Mrs May is planning to renegotiate the backstop with Brussels.

READ MORE: PM to demand EU scraps backstop or face no-deal – minister hints

He described this as “unadulterated good Brexit news” adding it would “defuse the booby trap”.

However the EU has insisted repeatedly that the backstop is not up for renegotiation.

On Sunday Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that “the backstop is already a compromise” and “isn’t going to change”.


To signal its intent to seek compromise on the backstop the Government is expected to back an amendment by Tory backbencher Sir Graham Brady, which calls on the controversial measure to be replaced by “alternative arrangements”.

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