Macron says Johnson’s Brexit demands ‘not an option’
French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday dismissed demands from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to renegotiate the UK’s exit from the European Union, saying it was “not an option.”
Commenting on Johnson’s letter to the EU demanding the reopening of negotiations on the Irish border, Macron said that the bloc had always been clear it would not agree.
“Renegotiation of the terms currently proposed by the British is not an option that exists, and that has always been made clear by (EU) President Tusk,” Macron told reporters in Paris.
Johnson has demanded that the EU drop an arrangement to prevent border controls returning between Ireland and Britain’s Northern Ireland, which is known as the “backstop.”
The backstop means Britain and Northern Ireland would keep its regulations — for things such as health and safety or food standards — aligned with the EU until it has signed a trade deal with the bloc in the future.
A return of border controls on divided Ireland could lead to a flare up in fighting on the island, which was plagued by decades of violence over British rule there.
Macron argued that Johnson’s demand to scrap the backstop was “not a good method” because it had been negotiated over the last two years between the EU and Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.
And he said it amounted to giving the EU an unacceptable choice between either protecting its internal market by reintroducing border controls at the Irish border, or preserving peace on the island.
But he dismissed any suggestion that the EU would be to blame for a no-deal Brexit, which one of his aides said earlier was becoming the “most likely” scenario.
“It will be the responsibility of the British government, always, because firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” he said.
Article 50 is the legal mechanism used by EU members states to withdraw from the bloc which was triggered by Britain in March 2017.
Macron called the Brexit process a “British democratic crisis” and he renewed his criticism of the 2016 referendum that saw the British public narrowly vote to leave the union.
It resulted from a “government asking the people to choose (whether to leave the EU), perhaps in a simplistic fashion, without telling them how it would be done.”