BRITAIN moved a step closer to crashing out of the EU without a deal yesterday, as Boris Johnson insisted that there could be no agreement while the backstop existed. He also accused MPs of undermining his Brexit negotiations.

The Prime Minister told broadcasters: “One thing that slightly, I think, complicates the picture is that our EU friends still clearly think that there is a possibility that Parliament will block Brexit.

“And as long as they think there’s a possibility that Parliament will block Brexit they are unlikely to be minded to make the concessions that we need. So it is going to take a bit of patience.”

In a letter to Donald Tusk, released late on Monday night, the Prime Minister insisted the backstop had to be taken out of the divorce deal. He claimed it risked undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

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As an alternative, Johnson claimed the UK would agree to a “legally binding commitment” not to put in place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border.

In a co-ordinated response, the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission explained there could be no agreement between Brussels and

London without the safety net that aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland by, effectively, keeping the North and the UK in the customs union.

Guy Verhofstadt, below, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, said the backstop was a “vital insurance policy, negotiated in good faith and supported by the people of the island of Ireland”. He added: “The time for bluster and political blame games is running out.”

The National:

Tusk said the backstop is “an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found.

He said: “Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.”

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said the letter “does not provide a legal, operational solution to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland”.

“It does not set out what any alternative arrangements could be and in fact it recognises that there is no guarantee that such arrangements will be in place by the end of the transitional period,” she said.

Johnson accused the EU of being a “bit negative”. He went on: “I saw what Donald Tusk had to say, and it wasn’t redolent of a sense of optimism. But I think, actually, we will get there. I think there’s a real sense now that something needs to be done with this backstop.”

Johnson is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel today and French president Emmanuel Macron tomorrow.

It’s the first time since he became Prime Minister some 30 days ago that her has met the European leaders.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford accused Johnson of “grandstanding”. He said: “Boris Johnson’s impossible demands and irresponsible grandstanding prove he is intent on dragging Scotland and the UK off a catastrophic No-Deal cliff edge. He must be stopped.

“Extreme Tory posturing on Brexit is risking the Good Friday Agreement – and threatening an economic disaster that would inflict lasting harm on jobs, living standards and public services.”

In the United States, a senior politician warned that Congress would move to block a future US-UK trade deal if it puts the Good Friday Agreement at risk by introducing a hard border.

Meanwhile, the government announced that British officials will “unshackle” themselves from attending most EU meetings from September 1. This, they said, would allow them to focus on “our immediate national priorities”.