LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):
Former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to use her crushing parliamentary defeat as leverage to get a better Brexit deal from European Union leaders.
Johnson said Friday that May would be able to persuade EU leaders to substantially modify the withdrawal plan if she shows enough “gumption” in crisis EU talks.
He says the scope of her historic defeat in Parliament means EU leaders will know they have to make concessions in order to come up with an agreement that would win parliamentary approval.
Johnson dodged a question as to whether he would support May as Conservative Party leader if she calls a sudden election to try to end the Brexit stalemate.
He said he didn’t think an election would be called.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says the German leader has discussed Brexit by phone with British Prime Minister Theresa May but isn’t giving details.
Spokesman Steffen Seibert said the two leaders spoke on Thursday. Officials stressed Friday there has been no change in Berlin’s position that it’s hard to imagine reopening the withdrawal agreement rejected this week by British lawmakers, and that it’s waiting for Britain to say what it now wants.
Seibert said Merkel and May discussed what happens next, “but that can’t be resolved in a telephone call between the chancellor and the prime minister — what we need first is the basis of a new proposal, a new direction that Britain has said will come on Monday.”
France’s prime minister is inspecting his country’s preparedness for a no-deal Brexit, visiting the Eurotunnel complex and meeting with small businesses on the English Channel coast.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe made the trip to the Calais area Friday under heavy security. A day earlier, the French government activated its contingency plans for the possibility that Britain leaves the European Union on March 29 without rules in place for cross-border trade and travel.
France and other European countries are hiring thousands of customs and border agents and bolstering security at airports and ports to gird for a cliff-edge Brexit. Such a possibility is increasingly likely after the British parliament this week rejected a lengthy EU-Britain divorce deal that would have eased the transition.
France is paying special attention to the Eurotunnel beneath the English Channel, which carries millions of passengers annually and freight trucks that play a significant role in Britain’s trade with the continent.
Talks to end Britain’s Brexit stalemate appear deadlocked, with neither Prime Minister Theresa May nor the main opposition leader shifting from their entrenched positions.
May has been meeting politicians from several parties in a bid to find a way forward after her European Union divorce deal was rejected by Parliament this week.
But she is unwilling to move her “red lines,” which include taking Britain out of the bloc’s customs union. And Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn refuses to meet May unless she rules out the possibility of Britain leaving the EU with no deal.
Amid the impasse, May’s opponents are gathering. Ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is making a speech Friday in an attempt to burnish his position as a leading Brexit champion, and potential replacement for May.
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