Boris Johnson has told Sky News the chances of a Brexit deal are “improving” now his messages on the £39bn divorce bill and Irish border backstop have “landed” with EU leaders.
The prime minister, speaking at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, claimed there was a “reasonable chance” that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October with an exit deal.
But he repeated his stance that the UK’s current withdrawal agreement is “dead” and warned that – without a Brexit deal – Britain is not legally obliged to stump up the full £39bn EU divorce bill.
Ahead of a meeting with European Council president Donald Tusk on the sidelines of the gathering of world leaders, Mr Johnson told Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby a Brexit deal – or a no-deal Brexit – depends “entirely” on the EU.
He said: “No deal or a deal depends entirely on our friends, some of them here, our partners across the EU, and I think in the last few days we’ve had quite a lot of success in landing some messages about what the UK can do and can’t do.
“Let’s be clear, I think at the moment there’s a reasonable chance that we’ll get a deal.
“But, in order to get that deal – to repeat my message – we’ve got to prepare to come out without one.”
Mr Johnson has travelled to Berlin and Paris in recent days for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Asked if a Brexit deal was more or less likely after those meetings, the prime minister said: “I’m an optimist.
“I think the chances of a deal are improving but there’s got to be a great deal of realism on the part of our friends that the withdrawal agreement is dead.
“The text that parliament rejected three times cannot now be made to go through.
“And I know people think ‘what’s this all about?’
“Fundamentally, the problem with that withdrawal agreement is it would keep the UK locked in the EU’s trading arrangements and in the lunar pull of EU law without being able to have a say on that.
“That’s why it’s totally unacceptable.”
Mr Tusk has suggested Mr Johnson won’t want to go down in history as “Mr No Deal”.
But the prime minister countered: “The people who are going to be responsible for no deal are not in the UK, we don’t want no deal.
“It’s simply not possible for us to have an agreement that contains the backstop in the way that I’ve described, that keeps us locked in the EU arrangements that I’ve described.
“That point I think has now landed with our friends and I think that they’ll see a way forward.”