Donald Tusk has told Boris Johnson not to “go down in history as ‘Mr No Deal’”.
Speaking at the G7 summit in Biarritz, where the pair will meet on Sunday, the European council president noted that Johnson would be the third British Tory leader with whom he has discussed Brexit, after David Cameron and Theresa May.
Tusk said he was “willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all EU member states, including Ireland, if and when the UK government is ready to [put them forward]. The one thing I will not cooperate on is no deal, and I still hope that Prime Minister Johnson will not like to go down in history as ‘Mr No Deal’.”
Asked about the remarks on Saturday, Johnson reiterated his insistence that the EU27 remove the Irish backstop from the Brexit withdrawal agreement. “I will make it absolutely clear: I don’t want a no-deal Brexit, but I say to our friends in the EU, if they don’t want a no-deal Brexit, then we’ve got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty,” he said.
Meeting regularly since 1976, the G7 is made up of seven countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. Between them, the countries represent around half of the world’s GDP, and the group’s main purpose is to provide a forum for discussing world economic stability. The first meetings grew out of a series of summits to deal with the 1973 oil crisis.
G7 summits take place annually, with the host nation rotating between the members. Summits are usually attended by leaders, finance ministers and central bank governors. As well as the seven nations, the meetings are also usually attended by leaders from the European Union, and representatives from international financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. As well as the high-profile summits, the finance ministers from the G7 also meet on a regular basis several times a year.
Between 1998 and 2014 the grouping was known as the G8, and also included Russia among its members. However, Russia was expelled in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea.
Tusk also had strong criticism for Donald Trump, who arrived in Biarritz at lunchtime. Referring to the US president’s increasing use of tariffs in trade relations, he said trade wars would lead to recession. He took Trump to task for abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and said US withdrawal had not brought about any positive effect.
Tusk rebuked Trump for his repeated suggestions that Russia could be readmitted to a reconstituted G8. He said the reasons Moscow was disinvited, for the annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine, were still valid. Tusk added that Russia had not followed the democratic trajectory expected after the cold war.
Overall, Tusk cast the G7 summit in Biarritz as a last chance for unity in sombre times. “The last years have shown it’s increasingly difficult for all of us to find a common language. This may be the last moment to restore our political agreement.”
He called for the defence of liberal democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the face of resurgent nationalism and the rise of authoritarianism.
On the issue of the fires raging across the Amazon, Tusk pointed out that the EU’s Mercosur free trade agreement with Brazil and three other South American countries, which has yet to be ratified, included safeguards for the environment.
He said: “It is hard to imagine a harmonious process of ratification by the European countries as long as the Brazilian government allows for the destruction of the green lungs of the planet.”
Ireland and France have said they would not ratify the deal if the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, did not change his environmental policies.
Tusk suggested there were signs Bolsonaro could be changing his mind about his policies affecting the Amazon, and said the EU stood ready to help combat the fires.