MICHEL Barnier criticised Boris Johnson’s Brexit stance as “unacceptable”, after the new UK Prime Minister called for the EU to rethink its opposition to a fresh deal.

Brussels’s chief Brexit negotiator described Johnson’s first Commons statement as PM as “rather combative”, in a message to member states.

Barnier said: “PM Johnson has stated that if an agreement is to be reached it goes by way of eliminating the backstop. This is, of course, unacceptable and not within the mandate of the European Council.”

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The negotiator said Brussels would analyse any solutions compatible with the existing Withdrawal Agreement and reaffirmed a commitment to rework the political declaration.

However, he added: “As suggested by his rather combative speech, we have to be ready for a situation where he gives priority to the planning for no deal, partly to heap pressure on the unity of the EU27. I note also the many strong reactions to the speech in the House of Commons. In this context we must follow carefully the further political and economic reactions and developments in the UK following the speech.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker later told Johnson the agreement negotiated by Theresa May was “the best and only” deal possible.