August 21, 2019 / 2:20 PM / a year ago

France now sees 'no deal' as baseline Brexit scenario: Elysee source

FILE PHOTO: Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate in Westminster, London, Britain, August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

PARIS (Reuters) - France believes ‘no-deal’ is now the most likely Brexit scenario after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded the European Union reopen the divorce deal and drop the Irish backstop, an official in President Macron’s office said on Wednesday.

Johnson said on Tuesday that the backstop - an insurance policy to keep the Irish border open after Britain leaves the European Union - was “anti-democratic”, and demanded its removal from the stalled divorce deal.

“The scenario that is now becoming the most likely is the no-deal scenario,” the official said.

“If the United Kingdom considers that having a backstop is absolutely excluded, that is its right, but in that case it limits the possibility of reaching an agreement.”

Johnson, a Brexiteer who entered No. 10 Downing Street a month ago, hopes the threat of ‘no-deal’ Brexit turmoil will persuade European leaders that the EU should do a last-minute divorce deal to suit his demands.

Yet the EU has so far stood firm and said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.

“Have no doubt that the French and German positions — and elsewhere — are the same. There’s not the thickness of a cigarette paper between us,” the French official said.

The EU’s position would not change even under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, the official added. Trump has offered Britain help, while criticizing the EU.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Writing by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Richard Lough and Toby Chopra

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