France believes Britain crashing out of the European Union without a deal is the most likely outcome after Boris Johnson demanded the Irish backstop be dropped, officials have said.
Ahead of a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said the Irish backstop was “anti-democratic” and demanded its removal from the divorce deal.
Responding to Mr Johnson’s remarks, an official in Mr Macron’s office said: “The scenario that is now becoming the most likely is the no-deal scenario.
“If the United Kingdom considers that having a backstop is absolutely excluded, that is its right, but in that case it limits the possibility of reaching an agreement.”
However the official added that even in the case of the no-deal, the EU will consider the Brexit divorce bill to be due.
The comments come as, in his first outing on the world stage as Prime Minister, Mr Johnson prepares to meet the German Chancellor in Berlin and Mr Macron in Paris amid warnings that EU leaders will not make 11th-hour concessions over his requests.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to discuss with Mr Johnson how to achieve “the most friction-free” Brexit when the pair meet on Tuesday evening.
The EU restated its “single united position” over Brexit ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit.
Brussels insisted Mr Johnson would not be able to undermine the EU’s unity by holding bilateral meetings with the German and French leaders.
European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said: “The EU27 have had from the outset – and continue to have now – one single, united position on Brexit matters.”
Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, also said a no-deal Brexit is much more likely now than it has ever been as a result of Mr Johnson’s approach.
Mr Coveney said: “There is a consequence to the approach that the British Government is taking and that consequence is that they are making a no-deal far more likely.
“There is a reason why Boris Johnson is visiting Berlin today and Paris tomorrow – to try to talk to EU leaders about finding a way forward.
“I think he will get a very consistent message from EU leaders that the negotiations over the last two to three years are not going to be abandoned now.”