A Brexit deal is 'essentially impossible', says Downing Street after call with Angela Merkel: Brexit News for Wednesday 9 October

A Brexit deal is 'essentially impossible', says Downing Street after call with Angela Merkel: Brexit News for Wednesday 9 October
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A Brexit deal is ‘essentially impossible’, says Downing Street after call with Angela Merkel…

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Boris Johnson a Brexit deal is “overwhelmingly unlikely”, according to Downing Street. The prime minister spoke with Ms Merkel for 30 minutes this morning, with Mr Johnson stressing that Brexit negotiations in Brussels “are close to breaking down”, Number 10 said. An EU-UK agreement is “essentially impossible not just now but ever” following the “clarifying” phone call, a Downing Street source added. The government last week unveiled its proposals for a renegotiated Brexit deal, with the prime minister hoping this can be agreed before the current 31 October deadline. During the call, Mr Johnson was said to have told Ms Merkel the plans – which would ditch the controversial Irish border backstop arrangement – represented a “reasonable offer”, but that it was not apparent to him “there was any desire for negotiation from the EU”. The prime minister also expressed his view that some in the EU are hoping a second referendum will reverse Brexit, but told Ms Merkel this won’t happen. – Sky News

…prompting the DUP to suggest Brussels wants to trap Northern Ireland in the EU forever…

Mrs Merkel personally rejected Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposals in a phone call between the two leaders on Tuesday, effectively burying the plan. The German chancellor stood solidly behind the EU’s criticisms of the blueprint, which would see the reintroduction of customs checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The DUP leader claimed her comments revealed “the real objective of Dublin and the European Union”. “For the United Kingdom to be asked to leave a part of its sovereign territory in a foreign organisation of which the UK would no longer be a part and over which we would have no say whatsoever is beyond crazy.  No UK Government could ever concede such a surrender,” said Mrs Foster. – Belfast Telegraph

…as Donald Tusk accuses Boris Johnson of playing a ‘stupid blame game’ and not wanting a deal

The president of the European Council has accused Boris Johnson of playing a “stupid blame game” in Brexit talks and not really wanting a deal. Donald Tusk’s intervention comes after a series of briefings from Downing Street overnight and through Tuesday portraying the EU as intransigent and suggesting talks are on the verge of collapse. “Boris Johnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” Mr Tusk said in a post on Twitter. “At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?” Relations between Brussels and No.10 appear to have hit a new low in recent days, marked by the intensification of hostile briefings from London.. – Independent

European Parliament President David Sassoli downbeat after talks with Boris Johnson

The president of the European Parliament has said there has been “no progress” on Brexit following talks with Boris Johnson in Downing Street. “In a lengthy statement released after the pair’s meeting, Mr Sassoli said the UK leaving with a deal was “by far the best outcome” – but the European Parliament “will not agree a deal at any price”. He added: “We have examined the UK proposals to replace the original backstop and our response is that these are a long way from something to which the Parliament could agree. In addition, they are not immediately operable.” The backstop is designed as an insurance mechanism to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, regardless of the future EU/UK trade relationship. But Mr Johnson has branded the arrangement “undemocratic” and wants to scrap it. – Sky News

Irish PM Leo Varadkar says it would be ‘very difficult’ to strike a Brexit deal this month… 

It will be “very difficult” for the UK and the EU to reach a Brexit agreement before the 31 October deadline, Irish leader Leo Varadkar has said. He told Irish broadcaster RTE “big gaps” remained between the two sides. Amid claims on Tuesday that talks were close to collapse, he also suggested the language around the discussions had turned toxic “in some quarters”. Mr Varadkar and Boris Johnson are expected to meet for further Brexit talks later this week. The UK has said the EU needs to “move quickly” to stop it leaving without an agreement at the end of the month. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who spoke with Mr Johnson by phone for about 45 minutes on Tuesday, said he would strive until the “last moment” to reach a deal with the UK, but “not at any cost” to his country, Northern Ireland and the rest of Europe. He also downplayed the chances of any agreement being struck before the crucial summit of EU leaders on 17 October, during which next steps for Brexit are likely to be decided. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to secure an agreement by next week, quite frankly,” Mr Varadkar said. – BBC News

…although he is set to meet Johnson as soon as tomorrow…

Boris Johnson is fighting to salvage his Brexit deal after an explosive row with Angela Merkel put talks on the brink of collapse. The prime minister will make a last-ditch effort to convince Leo Varadkar to engage with his plans for a customs border in a face-to-face meeting that could take place tomorrow. Mr Johnson and the Irish prime minister discussed the sticking points of the British proposals during a 40-minute phone call in which they stressed their mutual desire for a way through. An extraordinary day of recriminations began with an early morning call during which the German chancellor rebuffed Mr Johnson’s appeal for help to rescue negotiations over his new backstop proposals. Relations between London and Dublin remain sour after leaks and accusations of bad faith. Downing Street sources have claimed that the Irish leader reneged on a secret deal with Mr Johnson, first indicating that he would be prepared to compromise on Northern Ireland having to be in the customs union and then attacking the plan on its publication last week. – The Times (£)

…and his Deputy insists a no-deal Brexit would not be Ireland’s choice

Ireland will not be pressurised into accepting Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, the country’s deputy premier has said. Simon Coveney suggested briefings emerging from Downing Street were an effort to put pressure on the Dublin government to make concessions. A No 10 source has been quoted as blaming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for the ongoing impasse, accusing him of rowing back on private commitments to compromise. Mr Coveney, speaking after his government announced a “Brexit budget” to absorb the impact of a no-deal exit, said a disorderly Brexit would be the UK’s choice, not Europe’s. “There is a lot of misinformation going around today, so let me say this loud and clear to everybody – the Irish government and the EU is working flat out to achieve a deal that sees an orderly Brexit at the end of this month,” he said. “However, that deal cannot come at any cost. The British Government has responsibilities on the island of Ireland.” He added: “The Taoiseach wants to find a compromise here that works but he is not willing to be boxed into a corner and to accept proposals that are not consistent with the current Withdrawal Agreement or the outcomes of the backstop. He’s been very clear about that and I expect an element of that briefing was to try to put pressure on Ireland and put pressure on the Taoiseach and for us, this isn’t about pressure or personalities, it’s about solving a problem.” Mr Coveney said Ireland wanted a fair deal and close future relationship with the UK. “A no-deal Brexit will not be Ireland’s choice, it will never be the EU’s choice,” he said. If it happens, it will be a decision made by the British Government.” – Belfast Telegraph 

EU may offer to extend the deadline for a Brexit deal to next summer…

The European Union is poised to extend Brexit talks into as late as next summer after the European council and commission presidents dismissed Boris Johnson’s strategy as a “blame game”. A “range of dates” will now be in play at the meeting of European leaders next week but sources suggested the natural cut-off date would be June. With an extension of the UK’s EU membership now looking inevitable, other diplomatic sources suggested an unlikely outlier for an end date could even be ahead of a possible general election so as to force the Commons into accepting a deal. “But politicians like to keep things off their plates for as long as possible and so pushing it longer seems more realistic,” a senior EU diplomat said. The negotiations over a deal are said to be effectively dead in Brussels after Downing Street’s extraordinary claims over the substance of a phone call between the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the UK prime minister. – Guardian

…as government lawyers suggest Johnson could legally object to an attempt to force him to accept a Brexit extension

Boris Johnson is legally entitled to tell European leaders that he does not want a Brexit delay, government lawyers have said. The government is facing a series of legal claims arguing that the prime minister is not allowed to “frustrate” the Benn act, which requires him to request an extension if a deal is not reached. However, in a letter to those behind the legal action, Robert Norgrove, the Treasury solicitor, insisted there were limits to how much the act could frustrate the prime minister’s position. It did not prevent him from “honestly stating his view” to the European Commission about the desirability or impact of any extension. The act does not dictate the government’s position “in the delicate ongoing negotiations with the EC (including a position on whether any possible agreement should or should not be accompanied by any extension)”, Mr Norgrove added. “It is not for the courts to seek to impose additional controls on the prime minister which parliament in the act chose not to do. Nor is it for the courts to engage in an abstract and hypothetical exercise of providing judicial advice to the prime minister.” – The Times (£)

Boris Johnson vows Britain is ready to leave the EU on October 31st as Michael Gove lays out no-deal Brexit plans

Boris Johnson is “confident” that Britain IS ready to leave the EU without a deal on October 31 – as Michael Gove laid out the Government’s full plans today. The PM insisted that Brexit would be an “exciting opportunity” and huge chance to “restore democratic self-governance in hundreds of different areas.” He stressed that the country was “as prepared as possible for all eventualities” now after his 76 days in office. The PM also praised Michael Gove’s efforts to ramp up Britain’s No Deal planning in time. He wrote in 149-page Brexit report: “Thanks to his hard work, we can now confidently say that the UK is prepared to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October. It shows that we are ready to honour the promises that were made to the British people, and we will grasp the opportunities that so many voted for three years ago.” –  The Sun

  • UK prepared for no-deal Brexit but some risks remain, says Gove – Guardian

…as it is suggested five Cabinet ministers could quit if it comes to a no‑deal Brexit

Boris Johnson is facing a new cabinet rebellion over a no-deal Brexit and there are mounting concerns in Downing Street of further resignations. A group of five ministers — Nicky Morgan, Julian Smith, Robert Buckland, Matt Hancock and Geoffrey Cox — are on a “resignation watch list”. It came after a “fractious” cabinet meeting in which ministers warned Mr Johnson about the “grave” risk of the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland and raised concerns about Dominic Cummings, his most senior adviser. One cabinet minister told The Times: “Cabinet will set the strategy, not unelected officials. If this is an attempt to do that then it will fail. We are not a cabinet of sock puppets and nodding dogs.” Another cabinet minister said that a “very large number” of Tory MPs would quit if Mr Johnson put a no-deal Brexit at the core of his general election strategy. They said they would find it “very hard” to stay in a government that committed itself to a no-deal Brexit. – The Times (£)

  • Tory party faces split over any no-deal election manifesto – FT(£)

Labour MPs call on EU to compromise as they pledge to vote for new Brexit deal

The 19 backbenchers said their support would be “decisive” in ensuring any new accord won the backing of the Commons. Their pledge, in a letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, is a further challenge to the authority of Jeremy Corbyn, who last week insisted no Labour MP could support the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans. “It is now over 1,200 days since the UK people made the decision to leave the European Union,” the MPs wrote. “The British people have become exasperated with parliamentary deadlock. “If a new deal can be brought back to the Commons in the coming weeks that avoids a no deal Brexit and ensures greater certainty during the UK’s departure, we believe it serves Britain’s national interest to approve it. “Our votes will be decisive in determining the approval of that deal.” The MPs added: “We urge the Commission, the EU27 and the UK government to work night and day, if required, to agree a deal so the UK Parliament can make a clear decision to close this chapter in the coming weeks. We can then move forward to positive negotiations in stage two.” Among those who have signed the letter are Gloria de Piero, Caroline Flint, Gareth Snell, Ruth Smeeth and Stephen Kinnock. – PoliticsHome

Boris Johnson plans to tell Queen she can’t sack him even if he loses no confidence vote

Boris Johnson is planning to tell the Queen she cannot sack him as PM even if he loses a no confidence vote and MPs pick a caretaker replacement. Senior No10 aides are preparing legal advice for the monarch to ensure Boris can stay on to try to deliver Brexit on October 31. The extraordinary move is based on 70 year-old rules, dubbed the Lascelles Principles. Downing Street officials believe the PM can seize on them to advise the monarch that asking him to step down from power would risk chaos and endanger the economy – two red lines she must do her all to avoid. With talks on the verge of collapse last night, opposition MPs will now step up their bid to punish the PM for failing to strike an exit deal with the EU. Labour has vowed to table a vote of no confidence to topple Mr Johnson as soon as a Brexit delay is in place – with Monday October 21 seen as the likely day for the Commons vote. – The Sun

Downing Street is split as senior Johnson allies turn on Dominic Cummings

A rift has opened up at the top of Boris Johnson’s government between advisers loyal to the prime minister’s controversial chief aide Dominic Cummings and other senior Johnson allies. After an extraordinary 24 hours of anonymous statements from Downing Street officials attacking the German chancellor Angela Merkel and threatening to withdraw from security cooperation with the EU, Johnson has been urged by other senior Number 10 figures and members of his cabinet to reconsider the combative approach adopted by Cummings and his contingent of former Vote Leave aides. As talks with Brussels appeared close to breakdown on Tuesday, BuzzFeed News can reveal details of a “parallel government” being run out of Number 10 by Johnson’s longstanding adviser Eddie Lister, how the prime minister’s top team is split over its aggressive media strategy, and an imminent power grab over the approach the Conservative Party should take during an election — pencilled in for the end of November — and who should run the campaign. – Buzzfeed News

Speaker John Bercow prepares to bow out with parting shots for Brexit critics

Speaker John Bercow is bowing out of the UK Parliament — and he’s leaving with a volley of parting shots for his many critics. In a wide-ranging interview with CNN to mark the end of his term, Bercow, who has been accused of favoring the “remain” side of the Brexit debate, insisted that he had always acted as an impartial referee. And he had some stern words for lawmakers — including members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet — who have sought to portray Parliament as frustrating the will of the British people as expressed in the 2016 Brexit referendum in which the UK voted to leave the European Union. Bercow highlighted comments by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who called Parliament a “disgrace” in a recent debate for repeatedly failing to vote for a Brexit deal. Bercow said he would defend the right of ordinary lawmakers to hold the UK government to account “no matter how much cheap abuse, calumny and vituperation are directed to Parliament.” – CNN

Tony Blair says a no-deal Brexit risks breaking up the UK

Tony Blair has said the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is a boost for those supporting Scottish independence. The former prime minister said the chances of the UK leaving the EU without a deal have increased on the basis of latest briefings from No 10. But Mr Blair said a deal with the EU was still possible. In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Blair also acknowledged that he now finds it a “struggle” to support Labour. He said: “A no-deal Brexit is a threat to the United Kingdom, there is no doubt about that. “It is a threat to Northern Ireland, it is a threat to Scotland remaining in the UK. Do I hope either of these things happen? No, of course not and I will argue strongly against it.” Mr Blair added that a no-deal Brexit would give supporters of independence an “additional argument that they did not have before”. Reflecting on reports that a Brexit deal is “essentially impossible” after a call between the prime minister Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel, Mr Blair said there needed to be better conduct in negotiations. He added: “On the basis of the way the government has behaved today I think a no deal is more likely”. – BBC News

A ‘unity government’ could be filled with retiring MPs and Lords, claims Anna Soubry

Cabinet posts in a government of national unity should be filled by retiring MPs and members of the House of Lords, according to one idea floated in the cross-party talks aimed at avoiding a no-deal Brexit. The plan was put forward at a meeting of opposition chief whips and MPs last week in a bid to ensure any temporary administration could not be manipulated for partisan gain. The plan would see grandee figures, such as former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke and ex Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, take up leading positions in a so-called unity government. The idea was proposed by Change UK leader Anna Soubry, but was met with derision by the SNP, which has no peers and would not commit to having MPs standing down at the next election. Ms Soubry said she believed the terms of unity government had been agreed at the meeting, only for Labour to row back on the terms at a subsequent get-together on Monday. The former Conservative MP said: “The Government of National Unity has two underpinning points. “One, it would have to be to deliver a second referendum.  Two, anyone serving in Cabinet who is an MP would have to be resigning in the next election. They would then act in the national interest.” While Ms Soubry was left with the impression that plan had been agreed, others in the room denied it gained traction. – Telegraph (£)

Iain Duncan Smith: The EU has negotiated in bad faith all along

We are entering the end game of the Brexit talks, the final realisation that the EU has been negotiating in bad faith right from the very start. It is clearer than ever that Brussels’s objective all along has been to keep the UK bootstrapped to the EU. They will only have themselves to blame if the result now is that we leave without a deal. Who can forget Theresa May’s deplorable withdrawal agreement, among whose many sins the worst was the Irish backstop? It was a trap made possible by Dublin’s demand that there be no hard border on the island of Ireland: the EU have long believed that this was the anvil upon which they could smash Brexit. And it was entrapment by design. Enda Kenny, the predecessor of the current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, started work to mitigate the need for a hard border. After taking office, however, Varadkar scrapped that work and insisted on the backstop – even though it had been clear for many months that alternative arrangements could be effective.  We know this because Varadkar and the EU have previously said that in the event of no deal there need not be a hard border on the EU’s side. I happened to meet Michel Barnier shortly after. I asked him to explain how he would achieve that open border. At first, he refused to answer but after some pressing, his assistant said that they would have any checks away from the border. I responded that he was simply describing what had been proposed by the UK side. He replied that what the EU did on their side was none of our business and what we did wasn’t any of theirs. This wilfully destructive attitude continues to pervade everything. – Iain Duncan Smith MP for the Telegraph (£)

Owen Paterson: British fishing will thrive outside of the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy

In a hotly contested field, the UK’s subordination to the Common Fisheries Policy must rank as one of the most catastrophic consequences of our membership of the EU. The CFP has been a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster. It has done severe damage to coastal communities and our marine eco-system. In 1995, 9,200 British vessels landed 912,000 tonnes of fish. By 2016 there were only 6,191 vessels landing 701,000 tonnes. Once a net exporter, UK fish imports reached 730,000 tonnes by 2016, worth over £3bn. Much of the blame for this shocking decline rests with the EU policies of “Equal Access to a Common Resource” and “Relative Stability Shares”, opening our waters to common grazing, and producing Total Allowable Catch (TAC) allocations biased against British fishermen. The UK provides 50 per cent of the EU’s waters in the North-East Atlantic but receives only a 25 per cent share of the internationally-agreed TAC. For 40 years, British fishermen have seen EU fishermen catching 60 per cent of the fish in British waters. The sight of a monster 6,200-tonne Lithuanian-registered trawler – which has already been banned from Australian waters – capable of hoovering up some 250 tonnes of fish per day in British waters last week typified the problem. It poses a real threat to both the local fleet and vulnerable species, yet has not been found in breach of any EU rules. When asked to comment, the company responsible said, “We fish until Brexit has happened.” If anything should give a sense of the urgency of the task, this is it. Brexit represents a wonderful opportunity to reverse this appalling damage. – Owen Paterson MP for the Telegraph (£)

Pieter Cleppe: There is still a sliver of hope for a Brexit deal – but the EU needs to climb down

It isn’t over until it’s over. Angela Merkel seems to have rejected Britain’s final ‘take it or leave it’ Brexit plan. But with Brussels subsequently briefing that talks remain ongoing, there is still theoretically a chance that both sides can come to a last-minute compromise. The question is, with No 10 ramping up its no-deal rhetoric, is the EU willing to compromise? In a nutshell, Boris Johnson’s proposal involves aligning Northern Ireland with all EU rules, not just agricultural ones – but to avoid a democratic deficit, Northern Ireland’s assembly would get a say over this every four years. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU member states have welcomed this particular UK concession, but there is concern that this gives the DUP a veto over preventing a hard border.  Some degree of consent will however be needed to keep both communities in Northern Ireland on board. A more fundamental problem is the customs issue. In his list of four ways to avoid a hard border that are acceptable to the Irish government, Varadkar only mentioned options whereby Northern Ireland remains under the EU’s customs regime. He noted that, apart from the backstop, these were a united Ireland, the UK remaining in the EU or in the single market and customs union. – Pieter Cleppe for the Telegraph (£)

Tom Harwood: The intransigent EU will quickly regret killing this final chance for a Brexit deal

The EU’s mask slipped today after a phone call with Angela Merkel revealed that the EU will not agree to any deal that doesn’t keep the United Kingdom locked in their regulatory orbit or effectively annex Northern Ireland. It has become increasingly clear that that Brussels will never accept a relationship with the UK that is based on anything other than subservience. The Government is right to not back down. Merkel has effectively made it clear that she believes the EU has a veto on whether the UK can leave the customs union. This is not good faith negotiation. It would be madness for any UK government to let a foreign power set tax rates and control trade policy in the way that the EU demands. Clearly this is an organisation so buoyed by dissent within the House of Commons and Britain’s media class that they believe they can act as judge, jury, and executioner of this entire process rather than one side of the negotiation. They believe powerful Remain-backing forces within the UK will always have their back, and that Brexit can be defeated. But they are sorely mistaken. Far from guaranteeing a lopsided deal in the EU’s interests, continental intransigence will only make no deal more likely. The British public can see how reasonable the Government has tried to be with its new Brexit proposals, and how stubborn and political the EU remains. – Tom Harwood for the Telegraph (£)

Robert Peston: Varadkar tries to keep a Brexit deal alive – but will probably fail

This morning when Angela Merkel told Boris Johnson his Brexit offer did not provide the requisite confidence that the border on the island of Ireland would be kept open while preserving the integrity of the EU’s single market, it looked as though any Brexit deal was dead – and that the prime minister would therefore now focus all his efforts on achieving a no-deal Brexit, while MPs would focus all theirs on forcing him to ask for a Brexit delay. Tonight the president of the European Parliament, David Maria Sassoli, met Johnson and reinforced Merkel’s message that the British offer falls well short. So a Brexit deal is all over bar the shouting? Not quite, but almost. Technical talks between the Article 50 Taskforce and the UK’s negotiator rumble on. And the Irish PM Leo Varadkar tried to be more emollient in his chat with Johnson this afternoon. He said that the backstop and membership of the customs union, so hated by Northern Ireland’s DUP – Johnson’s unionist allies – would only be temporary, seemingly contradicting what Merkel said (though my German sources insist Johnson over-reacted to Merkel simply saying that the original backstop, which would potentially have kept the UK or NI in the customs union forever, is the sole idea that so far solves the so-called Ireland problem). All of which suggests that towards the end of this week the EU will moot a possible deal-saving compromise, namely keeping Northern Ireland in the backstop for a specified and limited number of years. You may disagree with Johnson’s and Cummings’s assumptions and premises, in particular that they are merely the servants of a British populous whose only wish is any kind of Brexit in 23 days. But there is no credible scenario where they escape oblivion if they give any hint that they would collaborate in a Brexit delay. If they willingly sacrifice 31 October they will be in the dustbin of history. Cummings and Johnson will not be budged either from Brexit on that due date, or – if the postponement is forced on them – a general election to secure their no-deal Brexit as soon as humanly possible thereafter. – Robert Peston for ITV News

Camilla Tominey: The Brexit blame game – how frantic 24 hours put Ireland and Germany in the firing line over collapsing talks

With Brexit timed for Hallowe’en, the days leading up to the UK’s planned exit from the EU were always expected to get tricky. But as Tuesday’s incendiary Number 10 memo appeared to signal the end for Britain’s already tortured negotiations with Brussels, the blame game for what was fast emerging as a spectacular failure of statecraft began in earnest.  Bearing all the hallmarks of Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief strategist, the explosive missive – sent to the Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth overnight – pointed the finger at Leo Varadkar’s “gamble on a second referendum”. Which must have made last night’s 40-minute phone call between Boris Johnson and the Irish Taoiseach a little awkward to say the very least.  In a stark warning to Dublin and Brussels, the statement added: “If this deal dies in the next few days, then it won’t be revived… We will also make clear that this government will not negotiate further so any delay would be totally pointless.” Support for Mr Johnson came in the form of DUP leader ‘Come On’ Arlene Foster, the Government’s confidence and supply partner, who said Merkel’s comments revealed the “real objective of Dublin and the EU” to keep Northern Ireland locked in the EU customs union forever. “We will not accept any such ultimatum or outcome,” she warned. Describing the Irish backstop as “beyond crazy”, the punchy statement, posted on the DUP’s Twitter feed, appeared to suggest that the Unionists, like their Tories partners, were inching ever closer to a no deal. Yet with both Britain and Ireland briefing that both sides were still strongly desired a deal after the 40-minute pow wow, a day that began with guns at dawn appeared to end with a cease fire of sorts. Until EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker decided to gatecrash the peace process by telling France’s Les Echos that any blame for a no deal would lie “in the British camp”, adding: “A Brexit without an agreement would lead to a collapse of the United Kingdom.” With Bonfire Night fast approaching, expect more fireworks. – Camilla Tominey for the Telegraph (£)

Telegraph: The EU will not browbeat us into breaking up the United Kingdom

The UK is due to leave the European Union in just 22 days’ time and yet the prospect of doing so with a deal looks as far away as ever after an extraordinary war of words that has exposed an almost unbridgeable gulf.  At issue, as it has been all along, is the status of Northern Ireland. Whereas the British government considers the province to be an integral part of the UK, the EU regard it as part of greater Ireland. Their view is that any agreement about its future status must be acceptable to Dublin. They cite the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement to back up their case along with the fact that a majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain. If anyone was still unclear about this it was spelled out by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, in a conversation with Boris Johnson. Essentially, she said if the UK wanted a deal it must agree that Northern Ireland, to all intents and purposes, remains inside the EU as part of its single market and customs union. This means one of two things. Either we can only leave the EU by breaking up our country; or we can never leave save on terms dictated by Brussels. Neither of these are acceptable to any government. Yet in the Commons, Labour fulminated against the Prime Minister, accusing him of setting impossible terms in the expectation of collapsing the talks. But this is not the case. Mr Johnson has agreed that there should be a single market in goods on the island of Ireland, which is a compromise from his earlier position, and this has even been accepted by the Democratic Unionist Party, which had hitherto opposed such a move. Unless they have broken down irretrievably, there is still time to resolve this impasse provided the EU is willing to accept that the UK cannot be browbeaten into breaking up its country in order to exercise a democratic choice. – Telegraph (£) editorial

Philip Johnston: With no Brexit deal, Boris Johnson will remain Parliament’s prisoner

Shortly after 11am next Monday, the Queen will leave Buckingham Palace in the State Coach for the short journey along the Mall and down Whitehall for the umpteenth time in her long and illustrious reign to open a new session of Parliament. This is assuming that the climate change “crusties”, as Boris Johnson called them, have been cleared away from the route. Perhaps the approaching rumble of the Household Cavalry’s Sovereign’s Escort will encourage them to move aside if the police have not already broken up their camp by then. It also assumes that the Government is even in office next Monday. With everything else that is going on – Brexit unresolved, a critical EU summit looming, the Prime Minister under siege and without a majority in Parliament – her Majesty would be entitled to ask herself along the way “what is the point of this?” and turn back. She won’t, of course, because it is her duty to open Parliament at the request of the Prime Minister. Mr Johnson is adamant he will not do anything that will put the Labour leader into No 10. His aides insist he won’t resign even if he does lose a vote on the Address. He could be trapped for months, Parliament’s prisoner, while they plot to hold another referendum. – Philip Johnston for the Telegraph (£)

The Sun: Brussels will reject any Brexit deal — this farce of a negotiation must surely end here

Time and again Britain has insisted we are leaving the EU’s customs union along with the rest of it. But Brussels will reject any Brexit deal unless we relent. This farce of a negotiation must surely end here. Locking us into a body we voted to quit, or breaking up the UK by making Northern Ireland do so alone, is utterly unreasonable. The world can see that. The customs union is central to the EU. Staying in it, but without a voice, is suicide. That’s what makes the Irish backstop toxic. And so much for that being a “temporary” fallback. Angela Merkel blew the gaff on that sneaky lie. So did the EU chief reported as saying privately that Northern Ireland was “the price” we would have to pay for Brexit. The Sun knew Brussels was not negotiating in good faith. This proves it. No wonder tantrum-prone hothead Donald Tusk now resorts to abuse. He thought our future as a crippled, impotent EU colony was secured — only to encounter a new PM with more steel. We would not blame Boris Johnson for pulling the plug. Indeed a clean break may be the only way to rebuild relations with the EU which a second, rigged ­referendum would destroy for decades. – The Sun says

Brexit in Brief

  • Is the EU about to offer a time-limited backstop? – Robert Peston for The Spectator
  • A Brexit deal is still possible: Here’s how – Raoul Ruparel for Politico
  • EU squandered millions on overseas projects last year – Daily Mail