The prime minister’s chief Brexit negotiator has urged his EU counterparts not to “underestimate” Boris Johnson.
David Frost – Mr Johnson’s so-called EU “sherpa” – told his colleagues “many people are inclined” to do just that, but it would be a mistake.
“You should be in no doubt about this government’s commitment to the 31 October date,” he added in an email.
It emerged as the cabinet ramps up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.Two new committees have been created – the Exit Strategy committee, known as XS, to make key Brexit decisions, and the Daily Operations Committee, to deal with the nitty gritty of no-deal planning.
The former will gather twice a week and be attended by six senior ministers including the PM, Chancellor Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove.
Mr Gove – who is in charge of preparations for a potential no deal – will oversee Monday’s meeting because Mr Johnson is on a visit to Scotland.
Mr Gove told reporters earlier: “There won’t be any delays, we are determined that we are going to leave on October 31st, and it’s my job to make sure the country is ready.”
The BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith says meetings of the Daily Operations Committee will be held in the Cobra emergency committee room, normally set aside for large-scale crises like terror attacks – a decision designed to symbolically underline that the country is now engaged on a national mission to get ready.
The Confederation of British Industry, meanwhile, is warning that neither the UK nor the EU is ready for a no-deal Brexit.
It has published practical steps it says countries and firms can take, but says “the unprecedented nature of Brexit means some aspects cannot be mitigated”.
Mr Raab told the BBC earlier “a load of preparation has already been done” for the event of no deal, but the government was now “turbo-charging” those efforts and “reaching out to sectors that may feel vulnerable”.
“The most important thing is to provide assurance about the risk in balanced way, but the biggest risk is to allow the uncertainty of the tortuous process we have been in with the EU to continue.
“The one reassurance we can give to businesses worried about uncertainty – is that we are going to provide some finality by coming out at the end of October.”
The prime minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson had spoken to a number of leaders since coming to office last Wednesday, but not yet Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
He said the prime minister had been clear he wanted to meet them and negotiate, but not to sit down and be told that the EU cannot possibly re-open the withdrawal agreement.