'˜Stop dithering and scrap the backstop', Boris Johnson tells PM

Boris Johnson has called on Theresa May to stop 'dithering' and tell the EU Britain will not accept the backstop arrangement designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Prime Minister Theresa May has held discussions with Cabinet colleagues after talks with other parties. Boris Johnson said the UK must go ahead with Brexit on 29 March. Picture: Getty

The former foreign secretary dismissed calls for the Prime Minister to rule out a no-deal Brexit, insisting it was “overwhelmingly likely” Brussels will offer an improved agreement following the defeat of Mrs May’s plan in Parliament.

Mr Johnson insisted the UK must go ahead with EU withdrawal on 29 March, insisting it would be “shameful” to seek to delay Brexit by asking for an extension of Article 50.

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The Prime Minister was meeting Cabinet ministers at 10 Downing Street to discuss talks she has held over the past two days with opposition party leaders and MPs. After surviving a no-confidence vote on Wednesday, Mrs May spoke with all party leaders except Jeremy Corbyn, who snubbed the talks because the PM refused to rule out no deal.

She also spoke on Thursday with German chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte. A spokesman for the European Commission said that president Jean-Claude Juncker expected to speak to Mrs May, at her request, yesterday.

Following reports of civil servants being asked to draw up contingency plans for an early general election, a Downing Street spokeswoman said that Mrs May was ruling out a snap poll.

Mr Johnson declined to say whether he would back Mrs May to lead the Tories into an election if one was called.

Answering questions following a speech at JCB headquarters in Staffordshire – widely seen as a leadership pitch – Mr Johnson said: “I think most people in this country feel they have had quite enough elections … A snap election is not the right way through.”

The former figurehead of the Vote Leave campaign sought to distance himself from controversial adverts about immigration from Turkey during the 2016 campaign.

Vote Leave adverts posted widely on social media stated that “Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU” and “Britain’s new border is with Syria and Iraq”.

But Mr Johnson insisted yesterday: “I didn’t say anything about Turkey in the referendum … Since I made no remarks, I can’t disown them.”

However, a week before the referendum in June 2016, Mr Johnson and Michael Gove wrote a joint letter to David Cameron claiming the government supported the idea of Turkish membership of the EU, adding: “The public will draw the reasonable conclusion that the only way to avoid having common borders with Turkey is to vote leave and take back control.”