No-deal Brexit looms larger as Johnson, Hunt declare backstop ‘dead’

Both candidates to become Britain’s prime minister significantly hardened their position on any potential Brexit deal on Monday, saying the previously-agreed Northern Ireland backstop was “dead.” Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt said they wouldn’t consider it in any deal they negotiate with the EU, not even if it was time-limited. It means both candidates on the race, which will be decided on July 23, are edging further towards a no-deal Brexit. Brussels has repeatedly ruled out renegotiating the withdrawal agreement it reached with Theresa May, and insists the backstop is essential to prevent the return of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. The backstop mechanism would see the UK would remain in a customs union with the EU in the absence of a trade deal, and Northern Ireland would stay aligned to some EU rules in order to avoid the need for border controls. However, pro-Brexit campaigners say it compromises UK independence from the EU. Asked in a leadership hustings if he would accept a revised backstop, Johnson said: “No. The problem is really fundamental. It needs to come out.” Hunt said the mechanism was “dead.”

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