Boris Johnson has said he believes “passionately” that a new Brexit deal can be struck with Brussels as he prepares to hold his first face-to-face talks as PM with Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Prime Minister will travel to Luxembourg on Monday where he will warn the European Commission president that he will reject any offer to delay Britain’s departure.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said he was working “flat out” to reach an agreement but reiterated that he would take the UK out of the bloc even if a deal cannot be reached at the European Council summit next month.
He said: “If we can make enough progress in the next few days, I intend to go to that crucial summit on October 17 and finalise an agreement that will protect the interests of business and citizens on both sides of the Channel, and on both sides of the border in Ireland.
“I believe passionately that we can do it, and I believe that such an agreement is in the interests not just of the UK but also of our European friends.
“We have all spent too long on this question. And if we can get that deal, then of course there will be time for Parliament to scrutinise and approve it before the end of October.
“But be in no doubt that if we cannot get a deal – the right deal for both sides – then the UK will come out anyway.”
The PM will also hold talks with Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday.
A Number 10 source said: “The Prime Minister could not be clearer that he will not countenance any more delays. We will be leaving on October 31 – no ifs, no buts.
“Any further extension would be a huge mistake. It is not just a question of the extra dither and delay – it is also the additional long months of rancour and division, and all at huge expense. We must finally deliver on the 2016 referendum result.
“This is why the PM will stress to Mr Juncker that, while he wants to secure a deal, if no deal can be agreed by October 18 his policy is to leave without a deal on October 31 – and reject any delay offered by the EU.”
Downing Street has sought to downplay speculation that Monday’s meeting could be a breakthrough moment, and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said on Sunday that there was still “significant work” to do to reach an agreement.
However, he said a “landing zone” for a deal was in sight, telling Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday that there had been “extensive talks” at a technical and a political level.
Mr Barclay, in an interview with the BBC, also suggested the transition period could be extended beyond 2020 to resolve issues relating to the backstop.
Over the weekend, Mr Johnson likened Britain leaving the EU to the Incredible Hulk, telling the Mail On Sunday: “Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country.”
But his comparison was described as “infantile” by the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, who questioned: “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this?”