EU leaders congratulate incoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson but remain tough on Brexit

Boris Johnson may be in the mood for celebrating but that euphoria could be short-lived when he makes his first visit to Brussels.

In fact, he will likely get a flavour of the mood when EU leaders call him once he actually becomes prime minister.

Emmanuel Macron has offered his congratulations – but has a cross-channel talk pencilled in as soon as he hears the words “PM Johnson”.

The French president will not be reticent about telling Theresa May’s replacement that her deal is the only one on the table.

The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation. Full stop.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, made that clear in a tweet, which was courteous but transparent, saying both sides wanted to work “constructively” – and were keen on facilitating “the ratification of the withdrawal agreement”.

Note “THE withdrawal agreement” – not “A withdrawal agreement”.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, published a letter he had sent to Mr Johnson saying he hoped to work together in “the best possible way” – but his successor pointed to the obvious talking of “challenging times ahead”.

Ursula von der Leyen will take over on 1 November, one day after Boris Johnson says he will take the UK out of the European Union.

She has said she would be open to the idea of a further possible extension, but only for a good reason.

She is already singing from the same hymn sheet of the man she will replace. The deal is done. Not for re-opening.

If EU leaders, from Germany, to Estonia and Bulgaria – stuck to a polite tone of welcoming the appointment of a new EU leader (PM Johnson will be for a time at least one of the 28), EU officials felt no such pressure to be initially be polite.

In fact they started their verbal assaults even before the results of the contest were announced.

At a news conference, Frans Timmermans-Juncker’s deputy at the commission-insisted again that Boris Johnson had played games with Brexit – and said the new Prime Minister’s character and approach would have no bearing on the EU.

That tougher rhetoric is yet to come from the EU leaders themselves, but it will.

They want a deal but they also want to protect the Irish border and the integrity of the EU’s single market.

And some are banking on Mr Johnson’s election strategy of promising the earth on Brexit as being bluster and are hoping when he meets opposition in Brussels he will cave.

Theresa May’s deal with tweaks to the protocol? Or a much, much longer transition (if the EU agree to it).

Of course others in the UK are banking on the EU caving when they meet a Prime Minister with, as they see it, “with the guts to stand up to the other side”.

The EU wants to keep the UK close and avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Ursula Von der Leyen is right.

The coming weeks will be challenging.

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