British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cautioned the European Union on Saturday that the “anti-democratic” Irish backstop must be ditched if they were to strike a Brexit divorce deal.
Johnson, since taking office on Wednesday, has repeatedly said that if the EU continues to refuse to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement agreed by his predecessor Theresa May, then he will take Britain out on Oct. 31 without a deal.
His biggest demand is that the most hotly-contested element of the Brexit divorce agreement, the Irish border backstop, be struck out of the Withdrawal Agreement, a demand that has angered Ireland and perturbed other EU capitals.
“If we get rid of the backstop, whole and entire, then we are making a lot of progress,” Johnson said, when asked if it was only the Irish border backstop that he wanted changed.
Speaking before a Stephenson’s Rocket, a 19th century steam locomotive, in the northern England city of Manchester, Johnson dedicated most of his speech to improving public services, transport and the internet and driving up economic growth.
“Our post-industrial towns have a proud, great heritage but an even greater future. Their best years lie ahead of them,” he said, announcing new long-term rail links and promising immediate improvements to bus services.
That message, aimed at what Johnson called “left behind” towns, is seen as the early stages of an election campaign, even though Britain is not due a parliamentary election until 2022 and Johnson is adamant he will not hold one before Brexit.
His Conservative Party does not have a majority in parliament, is divided over how to deliver Brexit and under threat of a no-confidence vote when parliament returns in September.