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No-deal Brexit will be on Johnson's head: Macron


French President Emmanuel Macron says a no-deal Brexit would be of Britain’s own making and not the EU’s, and any trade pact between the UK and US would not mitigate the cost of such an outcome.

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The French leader said the demands made by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for a renegotiation of the divorce deal, including the removal of the Irish backstop, were not workable.

Macron spoke to reporters in Paris on Wednesday as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin, gave Johnson 30 days to draw up an alternative solution to the backstop.

The backstop is an insurance policy to prevent the return of a hard border between Britain’s province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

“Can the cost for Britain of a hard Brexit – because Britain will be the main victim – be offset by the United States of America? No. And even if it were a strategic choice it would be at the cost of a historic vassalisation of Britain,” Macron said.

“I don’t think this is what Boris Johnson wants. I don’t think it is what the British people want.”

Earlier on Wednesday, an official in Macron’s office said France now saw a no-deal as the most likely scenario come Britain’s October 31 deadline.

The official said there was not a “cigarette paper” standing between the positions of France, Germany and other EU states.

Macron said the possibility of a no-deal Brexit “would be Britain’s doing, always”.

“The British are attached to being a great power, a member of the Security Council. The point can’t be to exit Europe and say ‘we’ll be stronger’, before in the end, becoming the junior partner of the United States, which are acting more and more hegemonically,” Macron added.

He said he saw no reason to grant a further delay to Brexit unless there was a significant political change in Britain, such as an election or a new referendum.

French officials say if Britain requested an extension in order to hold a new election, the EU would probably grant it.

Sticking to his previous hard line on Brexit, Macron said he would not accept renegotiating the withdrawal agreement agreed between Johnson’s predecessor and the bloc, and dropping the backstop.

“Why won’t we accept it? It’s simple: because what Boris Johnson suggests in his letter to (EU) President (Donald) Tusk is … to choose between the integrity of the single market and respecting the Good Friday agreement.

“We won’t chose between the two. We won’t jeopardise peace in Ireland, that would be one of the consequences of dropping the so-called backstop,” he said.

Ireland says border checks could undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace after more than 3600 died in a three-decade conflict between unionists who wanted Northern Ireland to remain British, and Irish nationalists who want Northern Ireland to join a united Ireland ruled from Dublin.

The French leader will be hosting Johnson for lunch on Thursday.


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