Tuesday 6 August 2019 10:28 am

Downing Street: EU must ‘change stance’ to avoid no-deal Brexit

The government has urged the EU to “change its stance” on negotiations after the bloc reportedly accused the UK of pursuing a no-deal Brexit.

Downing Street rubbished the claim after the bloc said there was no new basis for “meaningful discussions” over a deal.

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Number 10 insisted that the EU should “rethink” its approach to talks over its refusal to countenance changes to the withdrawal agreement negotiated under former Prime Minister Theresa May.

The government fired off the warning following reports that an EU briefing to diplomats said a no-deal Brexit appears to be the UK’s “central scenario”.

An anonymous senior EU diplomat told the Guardian and Telegraph: “It was clear UK does not have another plan. No intention to negotiate, which would require a plan. A no deal now appears to be the UK Government’s central scenario.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his government is working on the assumption that a no-deal Brexit will occur.

The bloc has ruled out removing the so-called Irish backstop, which is designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Johnson has said the backstop must go from any new deal.

MPs rejected May’s Brexit deal three times over the backstop issue, fearing it could lock the UK into an indefinite customs union with the EU.

If the UK and EU fail to agree a new deal, Johnson has committed to leaving the bloc in a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister wants to meet EU leaders and negotiate a new deal – one that abolishes the anti-democratic backstop.

“We will throw ourselves into the negotiations with the greatest energy and the spirit of friendship and we hope the EU will rethink its current refusal to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement.

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“The fact is the withdrawal agreement has been rejected by Parliament three times and will not pass in its current form so if the EU wants a deal, it needs to change its stance.

“Until then, we will continue to prepare to leave the EU on October 31.”