LEADING European experts have hit back at Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the EU would be to blame for a no-deal Brexit.

Dr Kirsty Hughes and Dr Fabian Zuleeg – a member of the First Minister’s standing council on Europe and chief executive of the Brussels-based think thank the European Policy Centre – argued if the UK left without an agreement, the decision was the responsibility of the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet.

Hughes said the UK had three alternative choices to a no deal – revoking Article 50 to remain in the EU, leaving with the existing Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, and leaving with the Withdrawal Agreement and a revised Political Declaration. “These are the UK’s choices not the EU’s,” said Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, based in Edinburgh.

“And the Brexit deal on offer was a result of UK EU negotiations. Nothing here is being imposed by the EU. We are back to a UK negotiating position of ‘give me what I want or I will shoot myself in both feet’.”

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Asked why she believed the new Prime Minister was trying to pin blame on the EU, she replied: “Johnson’s refusal to take responsibility for no deal suggests he knows it would be disastrous and, quite probably, that he assumes an election is more likely than Westminster allowing no deal to happen.

“The puzzle though, if we face an election, is that surely at that point Johnson must go into the election arguing for no deal rather than blaming it on the EU. Unless it’s some crazed last stand – ‘we will face chaos which is Europe’s fault but the bulldog spirit will see us through’.”

The National: Dr Kirsty Hughes said Boris Johnson knows a no-deal Brexit will be disastrousDr Kirsty Hughes said Boris Johnson knows a no-deal Brexit will be disastrous

Zuleeg said Johnson was seeking to shift blame onto the EU for ‘narrow personal and party political interests”.

“Boris Johnson knows perfectly well that the Withdrawal Agreement already represents a compromise of the EU27 and that it will not be renegotiated. Not least as issues around the backstop would touch the vital national interest of Ireland, which has the full backing of the EU27,” he told The National.

“This is an attempt to shift blame for the horrendous economic and political costs of no deal that Boris Johnson intends to inflict on the UK for narrow personal and party political interests. The full responsibility for no deal will lie with the UK Government.”

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Johnson used his first speech as Prime Minister on Wednesday to insist the UK will quit the EU by the Halloween deadline, pledging to deliver on this “do or die”.

He also suggested if the EU refused to renegotiate the current Brexit deal, the UK would “be forced to come out with no deal”.

Standing outside No 10, he said: “I say to our friends in Ireland, and in Brussels and around the EU, I am convinced that we can do a deal without checks at the Irish border, because we refuse under any circumstances to have such checks and yet without that anti-democratic backstop.

“And it is of course vital at the same time that we prepare for the remote possibility that Brussels refuses any further to negotiate and we are forced to come out with no deal, not because we want that outcome – of course not – but because it is only common sense to prepare.”