Boris Johnson has warned Donald Tusk that Britain will not pay all of the £39 billion Brexit divorce bill if there is a No Deal split on October 31 as the two men met for showdown talks in Biarritz.
The Prime Minister made clear to the president of the European Council that Brussels may get just £9 billion – or even as little as £7 billion – if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement at the Halloween deadline.
Speaking immediately before the meeting, Mr Johnson told ITV: ‘If we come out without an agreement it is certainly true that the £39 billion is no longer, strictly speaking, owed.’
Meanwhile, the PM told the BBC it was ‘touch and go’ whether the UK would leave the EU without a deal and insisted it ‘all depends on our EU friends and partners’ as he told Sky News that the chances of an agreement ‘are improving’.
Mr Johnson used the meeting at the G7 with Mr Tusk to try to persuade him to support a plan put forward by Angela Merkel and reluctantly backed by Emmanuel Macron to give the UK 30 days in which to come forward with alternatives to the Irish backstop.
But his Brexit divorce bill threat risked souring relations as the terms of Britain’s departure from Brussels remained in the balance.
The scene had been set for a tense showdown after the two men launched into a furious war of words yesterday as they argued over who would be to blame for a No Deal Brexit.
Their meeting came after Donald Trump hailed Mr Johnson as the ‘right man’ to take the UK out of the EU and predicted the US and Britain will be able to strike a ‘very big trade deal’ once Britain has left the bloc.
Mr Trump also insisted that Mr Johnson did not need his advice on how to successfully deliver Brexit as they met this morning for the first time since the latter became PM.
Mr Johnson welcomed the positivity from Mr Trump but warned the US President that the NHS will be ‘completely off limits’ during post-Brexit trade talks.
The UK PM also risked a row as he challenged Mr Trump over the wisdom of his trade war with China. Mr Johnson said he preferred ‘trade peace’ to hiking tariffs in comments likely to have been poorly received by the White House.
Mr Johnson’s meetings with Mr Trump and Mr Tusk came amid growing speculation that he could call a snap general election within weeks after it emerged he is planning to slash fuel duty at an emergency budget, paving the way for an early poll in October.
The likelihood of a snap election appeared to increase today as a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the Tories 12 points ahead of Labour on 33 per cent in Westminster voting intention.
Boris Johnson and Donald Tusk met in Biarritz this lunchtime for crunch Brexit talks with the PM expected to tell his European counterpart that Britain will not pay all of the Brexit divorce bill if there is a No Deal split on October 31
Mr Johnson appeared to be in better spirits than his European counterpart. The two men clashes yesterday over who would be responsible if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement.
Speaking to broadcasters before his meeting with Mr Tusk, Mr Johnson said the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU were ultimately in the hands of Brussels
Mr Johnson said today it was ‘touch and go’ whether the UK would split from the EU on October 31 without an agreement
Mr Johnson’s threat to withhold most of the £39 billion in the event of a chaotic split from Brussels came after Number 10’s lawyers concluded that, in such a scenario, the total payment should be slashed to £9 billion – or even as little as £7 billion.
That is because the UK would not have to hand over any of the money associated with the transition period agreed as part of the original deal.
A No 10 source said: ‘Boris wants to see fair terms for the UK’s exit in return for the billions we are meant to pay.’
A Government source said: ‘The PM has always said it was a huge mistake for [Philip] Hammond to agree to the divorce bill before any Brexit deal had been finalised.’
The source added: ‘If there is No Deal, Brussels will need to organise a whip round – they’ll need to plug a huge hole from our contribution and they’ll need billions’ to keep Ireland afloat.’
Brussels is of the view that Britain must pay all of the £39 billion bill regardless of the terms of its departure.
Mr Johnson’s second day at the G7 summit got off to a good start as he met Mr Trump for formal talks and the US President predicted he would be a ‘great prime minister’.
The two men had been effusive in their praise for each other before meeting and that trend continued today as Mr Trump said Mr Johnson would not need his help to take Britain out of the EU.
Mr Trump said: ‘He needs no advice, he is the right man for the job. I have been saying that for a long time. It didn’t make your predecessor very happy, but I have been saying that for a long time.’
Mr Johnson jokingly said Mr Trump was ‘on message there’ as the US President then described the UK’s EU membership as an ‘anchor’ and predicted a bright future for the special relationship once the UK has split from Brussels.
He said: ‘We are having very good trade talks between the UK and ourselves. We are going to do a very big trade deal, bigger than we have ever had with the UK.
‘At some point they won’t have the obstacle, they won’t have the anchor around their ankle because that is what they had.’
Mr Trump said a deal could be done ‘pretty quickly’ as he also claimed Theresa May had ‘stymied’ trade talks when she was PM.
Mr Johnson said he expected there to be ‘tough talks ahead’ as he tried to lay the groundwork for a swift post-Brexit trade deal, having warned the NHS will be ‘completely off limits’ during negotiations.
Asked if he had made clear his views on the NHS with regard to trade talks, Mr Johnson said: ‘Not only have I made clear that, the president has made that very, very clear. There is complete unanimity on that point.’
Boris Johnson met Donald Trump this morning in Biarritz for formal talks – the first time the pair have met since the former became PM
Mr Johnson was hoping to use this morning’s meeting to lay the groundwork for a future US-UK trade deal
The British Prime Minister and US President have put in place the foundations of a strong political friendship. There have been almost weekly phone calls between the two men since Mr Johnson took office at the end of July.
Mr Johnson has told Mr Trump that the NHS will be ‘completely off limits’ in a post-Brexit trade deal
The PM also suggested Mr Trump should reconsider his trade battle with Beijing as he said: ‘Look, I just want to say I congratulate the President on everything that the American economy is achieving. It’s fantastic to see that.
‘But just to register the faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war, we’re in favor of trade peace on the whole, and dialing it down if we can.’
Mr Johnson’s meeting with Mr Trump came after he said overnight that the US would have to ‘compromise’ in order for a post-Brexit trans-Atlantic trade deal to be done.
The premier risked infuriating Mr Trump as he set out a number of negotiating red lines and said the White House would need to agree to slash bureaucratic red tape to allow British businesses greater access to the US market.
He also reiterated his stance that the NHS will not be up for grabs in the talks.
He said: ‘When it comes to public procurement, the US has some very tough rules indeed, such is the strictness of the US’s non-war-like rules that a British stationery is banned from sending any form of measuring tool such as a ruler or a tape measure to any branch of the US military which is the kind of restriction we do not have in this country.
‘The point I am making is that there are massive opportunities for UK companies to open up, to prise open the American market. We intend to seize those opportunities but they are going to require our American friends to compromise and to open up their approach because currently there are too many restrictions.
‘It goes without saying that there are sectors of the UK economy, not least the NHS, which remain completely off limits as far as any trade deal with America goes.
‘We will not allow the NHS to be on the table at all.’
Mr Johnson and Mr Trump have set in place the foundations of a strong friendship since the former took office in July with almost weekly phone calls, including one on the eve of the summit.
Both Mr Trump and Mr Johnson appeared to be in good spirits as they sat down together with their respective teams this morning
Mr Johnson had tried to flatter his US ally overnight after he said he was more popular in Britain than people think
Despite the warm words on trade, Mr Trump was rebuked by Mr Johnson over his trade war with China. Mr Johnson said he preferred ‘trade peace’ to hiking tariffs.
The UK Prime Minister and US President were pictured together, speaking alone, at the summit last night
Mr Johnson tweeted before his meeting with Mr Trump this morning that he wanted to lead an ‘outward-looking, self-confident nation’
But while Mr Johnson’s relationship with Mr Trump has gone from strength to strength, his relationship with Mr Tusk has deteriorated in recent days.
Speaking after he arrived in Biarritz yesterday, Mr Tusk had warned Mr Johnson not to go down in history as the man who took Britain out of the EU without an agreement.
But Mr Johnson hit back and said it was Mr Tusk who was at risk of being known as ‘Mr No Deal’ unless he gave ground and allowed the terms of Britain’s divorce from the bloc to be renegotiated.
‘He will be the third British Conservative prime minister with whom I will discuss Brexit,’ Mr Tusk said.
‘The EU was always open to co-operation when David Cameron wanted to avoid Brexit, when Theresa May wanted to avoid a No Deal Brexit, and we will also be ready now to hold serious talks with Prime Minister Johnson.
‘One thing I will not co-operate on is No Deal. I still hope that Prime Minster Johnson will not like to go down in history as “Mr No Deal”.
‘We are willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all member states including Ireland, if and when the UK Government is ready to put them on the table.’
Mr Johnson responded by going on the attack as he said: ‘As I’ve made it absolutely clear, I don’t want a No Deal Brexit but I say to our friends in the EU: if they don’t want a No Deal Brexit then we’ve got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty.
‘If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as “Mr No Deal Brexit” then I hope that point should be born in mind by him too.’
The EU is deeply sceptical that Britain will be able to come up with anything good enough to allow the border insurance policy to be scrapped.
Following their breakfast meeting this morning, Mr Johnson and Mr Trump joined the other leaders of the G7 for their first working session of the three day summit
It was Mr Johnson’s first opportunity since becoming PM in July to address the other leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations together in one room
Mr Macron, the French president and host of the summit, was all smiles as he sat next to the US President and Angela Merkel at this morning’s session
Mr Macron said at the start of the summit he wanted it to focus on addressing environmental challenges. However, a row over trade has dominated the get together so far.
The Irish backstop was inserted in the original Withdrawal Agreement to ensure there is no return to a hard border in the event Brussels and Britain cannot agree terms on a future trading relationship.
It would effectively see existing EU rules on customs kept in place to ensure frictionless trade on the island of Ireland could continue.
But Brexiteers hate it because if implemented it would last indefinitely, restrict the UK’s ability to strike its own trade deal and getting out of it would require the agreement of both sides.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly labelled the protocol ‘anti-democratic’ since he won the keys to Downing Street last month.
Mr Macron set the bar high for replacing the backstop as he said on Thursday that the current protocol was ‘indispensable’.
Mr Johnson reiterated yesterday that the UK will not introduce any ‘checks or controls’ at the Irish border and that he believed there are a ‘large range of alternative arrangements’ which could replace the backstop.
He also said he did not want to get into a debate with Mr Tusk about how either of them will be remembered.
He said: ‘I have great relations with our friends and partners in the EU and intend to continue to improve them the whole time without getting into any post Brexit eschatology with the president of the council.
‘I think it’s Parliament’s job now to respect not just the will of the people but to remember what the overwhelming majority of them promised to do over and over and over again and that is to get Brexit done, to respect the will of the people and to come out of the EU on October 31.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk speaks during a press conference on the first day of the G7 summit in Biarritz, August 24
Boris Johnson arrived in Biarritz yesterday afternoon for his first G7 summit as UK Prime Minister
Mr Johnson flew into a Brexit storm yesterday as a furious war of words erupted between the PM and Mr Tusk
Mr Tusk had warned Mr Johnson against going down in history as ‘Mr No Deal’ but Mr Johnson hit back and said it was the European Council president who risked receiving the title
‘That is what I am confident our Parliament will do. I am confident that they will understand that their historic function is to respect the will of the people, the democratic mandate, and get it done.’
Mr Johnson began the summit with a bilateral meeting with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
He dismissed suggestions that the G7 was a ‘wonderful boondoggle here in some posh hotel in Biarritz’.
He said world leaders will be ‘working flat out on issues that will make a material difference to the quality of life of everyone in our countries and around the world’.
He also stressed the importance of the alliance between the UK and Canada as he said the two nations are ‘side by side’ on all major issues.
Mr Macron, the host French president, said he wanted the summit to focus on addressing environmental challenges and climate change with leaders expected to discuss the Amazon rainforest fires.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau smiled and shook hands for the cameras. The meeting comes after sources said Ottawa had ‘gone berserk’ after the UK Home Office decided to revoke the citizenship of Jihadi Jack
Security was tight at the summit in the south west of France as mounted police patrolled the beach after clashes with protesters yesterday
Police fire water cannon at protestors in Bayonne, France, August 24 as world leaders and protesters are converging on the southern French resort town of Biarritz for the G7 summit
Pictured: A protester kicks away a teargas canister fired by police in Bayonne, France, on August 24
More than 9,000 anti-G7 protesters joined a mass march across the French-Spanish border as world leaders arrived for a summit in Biarritz
As world leaders met for tense meetings police fired water cannon and tear gas at about 400 anti-capitalist protesters blocking roads in a town near the summit’s venue yesterday.
A few protesters threw rocks at police but the crowd in Bayonne was largely peaceful, with some activists dancing.
Police fired warning shots and then used a water cannon. The incident took place near a bridge barricaded by police as part of extensive security measures around the Group of Seven meeting.
Earlier thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully from the area to the Spanish border to demand more action against climate change and economic inequality.
Mr Trump flew into Biarritz on Air Force One yesterday hours after promising to impose punishing tariffs on French wine imports if Mr Macron doesn’t withdraw a tax on US tech giants.
Mr Tusk said the EU ‘will respond in kind’ and added: ‘The last thing we need is a confrontation with our best ally, the United States.
‘This is not our initiative, this trade and tariff struggle, but we have to be ready and we are ready.’
The G7 has traditionally been a forum for frank yet cordial discussions between world leaders but the dynamic has changed since Mr Trump’s election in 2016.
European leaders are expected to use the summit to mount tough calls for action against fires in the Amazon rainforest despite Brazilian right wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s angry response to what he sees as outside interference.
The summit is attended by the leaders of the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US with the EU also sending a representative.