LONDON • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday warned lawmakers against trying to block Brexit from happening on Oct 31, saying it would do "lasting damage" to trust in politics.
"If we stop the UK from leaving on Oct 31, if that's what parliamentarians end up doing, it will do lasting damage to people's trust in politics," Mr Johnson told Sky News.
He also said the European Union will not give Britain the divorce deal it wants if it believes that Brexit can be stopped. "I'm afraid that the more our friends and partners think, at the back of their minds, that Brexit could be stopped, that the UK could be kept in by Parliament, the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need," he said.
His Brexit plan faced mounting legal, political and diplomatic challenges yesterday as Ireland accused Britain of being unreasonable and former premier John Major sought to stop the suspension of Parliament.
Three legal bids to halt Mr Johnson's move have been launched: in Scotland, in London - backed by Mr Major - and in Belfast. A Scottish court ruling yesterday temporarily dismissed the request from a cross-party group of parliamentarians for an interim injunction on the suspension of Parliament. A full hearing is expected next week.
Britain's Brexit negotiators are to meet their EU counterparts twice a week throughout next month in a bid to reach a new divorce deal.
"While I have been encouraged with my discussions with EU leaders over recent weeks that there is a willingness to talk about alternatives to the anti-democratic backstop, it is now time for both sides to step up the tempo," Mr Johnson said.
He wants the so-called backstop, the fallback provisions regarding the Irish border, scrapped completely. Britain has said technological alternatives to border checks should be possible by the time the backstop might be needed, but has given no details, prompting scepticism from the EU.
Britain's lead Brexit negotiator David Frost will be joined in Brussels next month by different officials, including experts on Customs, regulatory issues and trade policy, the government said.
"Discussions so far have shown that the two sides remain some distance apart on key issues but that both sides are willing to work hard to find a way through," Downing Street said in a statement.
Mr Johnson's bid to change the Irish border backstop was bluntly dismissed by Dublin. "Boris Johnson is outlining a very clear and firm position but it is a totally unreasonable position that the EU cannot facilitate and he must know that," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told Ireland's Newstalk radio.
Brussels insists that the backstop - which would keep Britain in EU Customs arrangements to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland - is essential to preserve the integrity of European trade and to avoid risking a return of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS