August 21, 2019
Boris Johnson was made prime minister and then you went on your summer holidays and tried to forget all about politics, right? 
Boris Johnson Is Meeting EU Leaders – Whats His Game?
So you’re probably wondering what our new premier is up to in Europe this week meeting with EU leaders. 
Brexit and the Northern Irish backstop have a lot to do with it. But let us try to explain what’s going on without completely killing what’s left of your summer buzz. What’s Boris Johnson doing this week? The PM will be in Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday before heading to France on Thursday for a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. 
His face-to-face encounters with two of the EU’s biggest power-brokers are ostensibly an attempt to force Brussels to reopen the Brexit withdrawal agreement. 
They follow a clash with Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar this week over the Northern Irish backstop. THE RECAP: 
The Northern Irish backstop is a kind-of insurance policy written into the Brexit deal to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Unless there is a no-deal exit, Britain will enter a transition period in which the UK remains part of the customs union and single market. If, at the end of that period, the UK and EU have failed to agree a trade deal that sorts out border rules, Britain will be part of a single customs territory with the EU until an alternative is found. 
Brexiteers don’t like it because they fear it will tie the UK to a customs union with the EU almost indefinitely. 
Unionists, such as the government’s supply and confidence partners the DUP, don’t like it because Northern Ireland could end up aligned to some additional EU rules while the rest of the UK would not. 
The EU, moderate Leavers and many Remainers, say writing in a backstop is the only way to avoid a hard border and stay true to the Good Friday Agreement which guaranteed peace in Northern Ireland. Johnson reportedly reminded Varadkar that Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which included the backstop, was three times rejected by MPs. The Irish PM countered that it cannot be ignored and that, as a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. 
The PM has insisted that he wants to strike a new deal with Brussels, but Merkel and Macron are expected to follow suit in rejecting Johnson’s plea for the Brexit deal to undergo a “backstop-ectomy”. 
Johnson will also join world leaders such as US President Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, on Saturday. If they won’t ditch the backstop, what is the PM playing at? Here is the letter Johnson sent to EU Council President Donald Tusk setting out the UK’s demands and position on any potential renegotiation of the Brexit deal. 
He calls the backstop undemocratic and asks that it essentially be removed, stressing to the EU that the UK is prepared to leave without a deal on October 31. 
He calls for “alternative arrangements” to be put in place but does not make clear what these might be, something which is only likely to make Brussels cling to the backstop proposal. PM @BorisJohnson has written to @eucopresident about key aspects of the UK’s approach to Brexit, problems with the “backstop” & the Government’s commitment to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement whether there is a deal with the EU or not.https://t.co/SZSSwmC1Pnpic.twitter.com/sPpNqGJdRM— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) August 19, 2019Johnson nonetheless has said he is “confident” the EU will budge and accused EU figures of a “negative” attitude. 
This was given short shrift by EU leaders and Tusk himself replied with a rather sharp tweet, accusing Johnson of being prepared to accept a hard border. The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found. Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support reestablishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) August 20, 2019Johnson has said he is prepared to offer the EU a legal guarantee no hard border will be erected, while some have suggested the UK and Ireland could broker a stand-alone bilateral deal. Both ideas are thought to be unacceptable to the EU 27. 
Johnson doubled down on his approach in broadcast interviews on Tuesday night. He said: “I’m going off to Germany and then to France, and then to see the G7 [summit] at Biarritz, and I’m going to make the point that the backstop is going to come out.
“It may be that for now, they stick with the mantra, rien ne va plus, and they can’t change a jot or a tittle of the WA [withdrawal agreement]. Let’s see how long they stick to that, I think there are plenty of other creative solutions.”So, what next? Johnson allies insist that the EU will fold at the last minute and cave in to British demands. But Westminster watchers and Remainers fear all the signs point to the PM gearing up to blame the EU for the UK crashing out of the bloc on October 31. 
Merkel and Johnson will hold a joint press conference in Berlin at around 5.30pm on Wednesday, after which the direction of travel could become clearer. 
Should talks with the EU go sour, one thing is for certain: on Saturday the focus will shift to US-UK relations as Trump and Johnson will meet at the G7 summit. 
The pair have been in regularly contact over the summer so the PM can update the President on Brexit ahead of a potential US-UK trade deal. 
And, amid much speculation that Johnson is preparing to call a snap general election, the government will be keen to underline Johnson’s closeness to arguably the world’s most powerful leader. Related... Brexit Will Be A Gift To Dissident Republicans In Northern Ireland Johnson Says EU Too 'Negative' After Merkel And Tusk Trash His Brexit Offer No-Deal Brexit: This Is Why MPs Want To Recall Parliament
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