MICHAEL GOVE has accused the EU of refusing to engage in negotiations for a new Brexit deal.
Mr Gove, the cabinet minister responsible for no-deal preparations, insisted the government was ready to engage in talks in a ‘spirit of friendliness’. He was ‘deeply saddened’ by Brussels’s position that Theresa May’s agreement was ‘the best possible deal’ Britain would get.
It followed reports EU officials had concluded Boris Johnson has no intention of negotiating and his government’s ‘central scenario’ was a no-deal break.
Mr Gove insisted the EU side had to accept a new approach after Mrs May’s deal was rejected three times by MPs. ‘We stand ready to engage with the European Union, to negotiate in good faith to make sure that we can have a friendly relationship in the future,’ he added.
‘We will put all our energy into making sure that we can secure that good deal but at the moment it is the EU that seems to be saying they are not interested. They are simply saying “No, we don’t want to talk”. I think that is wrong and sad. It is not in Europe’s interests.’
Mr Johnson has said, while he wants a new agreement, he is not prepared to open talks unless the EU agrees to drop the backstop over the border with Ireland, which proved the main stumbling block to Mrs May’s deal.
Irish premier Leo Varadkar has insisted the withdrawal agreement, and the backstop, cannot be re-opened.
He repeated an invitation for Mr Johnson to go to Dublin for talks on the basis of ‘no pre-conditions’. ‘There are many ways no-deal can be avoided. I am certainly not fatalistic about that,’ he said.
The European Commission also said its president Jean-Claude Juncker was ready to meet Mr Johnson.
Meanwhile, Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve reacted angrily to reports Mr Johnson could refuse to resign if he lost a vote of no-confidence in the Commons until Britain was out of the EU on October 31.
‘To argue that, if you lose a vote of no confidence, you will simply sit it out and barricade yourself in Downing Street is simply breathtaking, stupid, infantile, and it won’t work,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s The Emma Barnett Show.