July 20, 2019 / 10:14 PM / a month ago

Irish, EU governments sound out Johnson to avoid no-deal Brexit - Sunday Times

FILE PHOTO: Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party, leaves offices in central in London, Britain, July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Ahead of Boris Johnson’s likely election next week as Britain’s prime minister, EU countries are secretly wooing him in a bid to thrash out a new Brexit plan that would avoid a no-deal disaster, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.

Senior Irish politicians and diplomats have held talks with two of Johnson’s cabinet allies in recent days, it said. German and French figures as well as the Dutch and Belgian governments have also established contact with Johnson’s team and signalled an intention to do a deal, it added.

In a limited extract released on Saturday evening ahead of publication, the paper reported that Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has indicated Dublin is prepared to compromise.

Johnson has pledged to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal but Coveney said in an article for the paper that EU member Ireland wants to avoid a no-deal exit at all costs.

“If Britain decides to leave without a deal it could cause huge damage to us all,” he wrote. “A no-deal Brexit would devastate the northern Irish economy.”

Johnson is widely expected to have easily beaten his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, when the result of a ballot of members of the ruling Conservative Party for their next leader to replace Theresa May is announced on Tuesday.

May resigned two months ago after failing to persuade parliament to back the exit deal she struck with the EU last November.

Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Will Dunham

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