Boris Johnson Preparing for Brexit Talks to Collapse: Spectator

(Bloomberg) — Boris Johnson’s government is preparing for Brexit talks to collapse, a move for which it will blame Ireland and European Union leaders, according to a text message from one of the prime minister’s officials reported by the Spectator magazine.

The message, which ran to nearly 800 words, was published in full by the magazine on its website. It was attributed simply to someone in Johnson’s office.

It blamed the EU’s refusal to move on the Irish border question, which has stalled talks for more than a year, on Parliament for passing a law that aims to stop Johnson taking the U.K. out of the bloc without a deal. As a result of that, the author claimed Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had decided not to make concessions on the border.

The message suggested that the main way Johnson would try to avoid delaying Brexit would be to try to get an EU country to veto one. It said Britain would offer rewards to any country opposing an extension to negotiations. According to the Spectator, the U.K. would also threaten cooperation on areas including defense and security if it stays in the EU.

Johnson Warned Against Big Tax Cuts as U.K. Faces No-Deal Shock

Nevertheless, the author seemed to accept that an extension was likely, and that Johnson would then fight an election, promising a no-deal Brexit immediately if he won.

Talks about Johnson’s Brexit plan, announced last week, are due to continue Tuesday in Brussels. The U.K. side has given more legal detail about how its plan would work, but EU leaders are still demanding that Britain drop its plan to introduce a customs border on the island of Ireland. There’s an informal deadline for the talks of the end of this week. Johnson yesterday called counterparts in what Brexit minister James Duddridge told Parliament was an attempt to “whip up enthusiasm for the deal and avoid no-deal.”

Rules and Questions

Meanwhile, Johnson’s government has delayed publishing its rules for when it would be able to intervene to help businesses after a disagreement over what those rules should be.

According to a person familiar with the plans, speaking on condition of anonymity, changes to state aid rules were going to be published Tuesday. That has now been held back.

The precise nature of the disagreement isn’t clear, but for months there has been an argument within government on the issue. The Treasury has argued that the European Union’s rules should be copied into British law, to give businesses continuity, and to promote competition. EU rules aim to prevent governments from distorting markets by helping particular companies.

On the other side of the argument are ministers who want the government to be able to help businesses struggling in the wake of a no-deal Brexit. Without the constraints of the EU’s rule, the government would be able to back national champions, potentially undercutting rival European firms.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert Jameson

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