Before Boris Johnson became prime minister there was speculation that as soon as he took office he would be on the plane to Brussels, Paris and Berlin to open talks with EU leaders about his demands for a new Brexit deal. On Friday the German government even said Johnson had accepted an invitation to visit Angela Merkel “in the near future”. But Number 10 itself has been playing down the prospect of talks opening soon, today’s Daily Mail says Johnson has no plans to visit EU capitals this summer, and that there might be no significant talks with Brussels until the EU summit starting on 17 October, and in an interview on the Today programme this morning the new foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, all but confirmed this.
Asked if Johnson had any plans to visit EU capitals, Raab said there were a whole series of meetings coming up, but the only one he mentioned was the Gymnich, an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers at the end of August. Raab ignored a question about whether Johnson would be visiting EU capitals before that, and he implied that Johnson has not even spoken yet to Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, who is central to any decision taken by the EU in relation to the backstop. Raab then suggested that there was no point in the UK opening talks until the EU agrees to abandon the backstop. He said:
I have spoken to Simon Coveney [the Irish foreign minister] and a range of other European foreign ministers, and will continue those calls, to send the message very clearly we want a deal if there’s a deal to be done, but I don’t think you can just airbrush the fact that the last deal was defeated by the biggest margin in parliamentary history and has led to the resignation of a prime minister. It is not just going to revert to where we left off the last negotiations. There must be some change from the EU. And if the EU are not willing to move at all, we must be willing to ready to give the country some finality.
Number 10 has repeatedly said that the “change” required from the EU is the removal of the backstop from the withdrawal agreement.
I will post more from the interview shortly.
Today we have got a lobby briefing from Number 10 at 11am. Johnson himself is in Scotland, where he is visiting a military base this morning, before going to Edinburgh in the afternoon for talks with Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, and Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to publish a summary when I wrap up.
You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe roundup of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.
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