With just 67 days to go until the UK leaves the bloc, Mr Johnson’s team are revving up the no deal planning as the chances of a fresh deal with the EU hang in the balance. Alex Aiken, the executive director of the government’s communications, put a stop to a plan drawn up by Mr Johnson’s spin doctors to put a countdown clock on desktops used by Downing Street officials.
According to The Sunday Times, Mr Aiken thought it would be “too stressful” for workers to be greeted by the ticking clock every morning and said it would heap “too much pressure” on them as they work on Brexit preparations.
But while Mr Johnson’s aides’ hopes of using the instruments as a means to keep workers on their toes were dashed, countdown clocks have been introduced at Conservative campaign headquarters and at a Tory party press office.
As the government accelerates planning for a hard exit, ministerial advisers have been ordered to cancel any annual leave they had planned.
Mr Johnson last week travelled to Berlin and Paris to meet with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron for Brexit talks.
Both the German chancellor and the French president indicated they were open to working with the UK to find a way to prevent no deal.
At a joint press conference in the German capital, Ms Merkel gave Mr Johnson a 30-day time lime to find a solution to the Irish backstop – the main sticking point of Theresa May’s thrice-rejected Withdrawal Agreement.
“One thing I will not cooperate on is no deal and I do hope PM Johnson will not want to go down in history as Mr No Deal.”
The Conservative leader responded by saying Mr Tusk would come to be known as “Mr No Deal Brexit” if the EU refused to back down on the issue of the backstop.
On Sunday morning the two men held a meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, in which Mr Johnson was expected to tell Mr Tusk he would not pay the full Brexit divorce bill if a deal was not agreed on.
He told Mr Tusk the UK would be willing to hand over just £9 billion of the £39 billion bill if no new Withdrawal Agreement was found.
In an interview with Sky News Mr Johnson called on the bloc to use “common sense” when approaching the subject of Brexit and said he was still hopeful a deal could be struck.
He said: “I think the chances of a deal are improving but there’s got to be a great deal of realism on the part of our friends that the Withdrawal Agreement is dead, that the text that Parliament rejected three times cannot now be made to go through.”