LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had full confidence that Britain and the EU will avoid a potentially disastrous cliff-edge “no deal” at the end of this year.
But he refused to back down on controversial new legislation that he openly admits will break international law and which has put his government at loggerheads with Brussels.
The proposed law, which overrides parts of the Brexit treaty relating to trade in Northern Ireland, could torpedo already fraught trade talks with the European Union.
The prospect of a “no deal” is looming larger with the talks deadlocked, and both sides insisting agreement must be struck by next month for it to be implemented at the end of the year.
Johnson told MPs that a “no deal” was “not what this country wants and it s not what our EU friends and partners want from us”.
“Therefore I have every hope and expectation that that will not be the outcome,” he told a parliamentary committee during more than two hours of questioning.
The UK Internal Market Bill was put before parliament this week, despite EU calls for it to be withdrawn and stark reminders of the need to uphold treaty obligations.
Johnson has claimed the EU could “blockade” food and agricultural products heading to Northern Ireland from mainland Britain by imposing higher duties and tariffs.
Northern Ireland will have Britain s only land border with the EU from January 1, and remains bound by some EU rules to ensure its border with Ireland stays open.
An open border was a key requirement of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to more than 30 years of violence over British rule in Northern Ireland.