Brexit warning: Boris Johnson 'grossly misreading' EU position, David Miliband claims

Brexit warning: Boris Johnson 'grossly misreading' EU position, David Miliband claims

Boris Johnson has called on the European Union to give up their hard stance on modifications to the Brexit withdrawal agreement since before he was elected Prime Minister. In a phone call to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, Mr Johnson reiterated his commitment to seeing the controversial backstop removed from the deal. But according to former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who experienced Brussels negotiating tactics during talks over the Lisbon Treaty during his tenure, the Prime Minister has been “grossly misreading” the EU’s willingness to give in. 

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Miliband said: “It’s a gross misreading of the European position to think that upping the ante with threats and rhetoric is going to get them to shift.

“All of my experience is that the European leaders will bend to support each other if there is a commitment to a shared project.”

The former Labour politician also said the decision to pursue a no deal Brexit in the event of Brussels not agreeing to changes of the withdrawal agreement is “anathema” to EU leaders/

He continued: “Obviously what Boris Johnson has done is not just embrace Brexit but embrace a form of Brexit, a no deal Brexit, that means no deal not just for the economy but on security education and research cooperation.

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“He has embraced a form of Brexit that is anathema to European neighbours and is also completely at odds with what was presented at the time of the general election.”

Mr Johnson has branded the Irish backstop as “anti-democratic” and pledge to convince the bloc to remove the clause from the withdrawal agreement.

The backstop was originally designed to ensure no hard border would return on the island of Ireland in the event of a no deal Brexit but pro-Leave politicians have claimed the policy could be exploited to force the UK into a very close trading relationship with EU member states.

Mr Johnson was congratulated for his appointment in a private phone call with European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday. However the Commission President reiterated that the existing deal remained “the best and only agreement possible” between the UK and the EU.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “On Brexit, the PM reiterated that he wants a deal, and will be energetic in pursuit of finding a way forward, but said the withdrawal agreement has been rejected three times by the UK Parliament and will not pass in its current form.

“The Prime Minister said that if an agreement is to be reached it must be understood that the way to a deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.

“The Prime Minister and the President agreed to stay in contact.”

The Prime Minister said he would scrap the controversial Irish backstop in his bid to alter the terms of his predecessor’s deal.

In his maiden speech in the Commons on Thursday, Mr Johnson said: “No country that values its independence and indeed its self-respect could agree to a treaty which signed away our economic independence and self-government as this backstop does.

“A time limit is not enough… the way to the deal goes by the way of the abolition of the backstop.”

Following the speech, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned EU leaders to start their own preparations for no deal.

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