Both The Guardian and The Telegraph report that EU officials now believe the UK Prime Minister intends to head for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
It comes after Downing Street insisted Mr Johnson still wants to negotiate a Brexit deal “with the greatest energy” – but warned that Britain would be leaving the bloc on the Halowe’en deadline “whatever the circumstances”.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly urged the European Union to remove what he has called the “undemocratic” Irish backstop from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May.
The plan was included in the current deal in a bid to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event talks between the EU and UK break down.
But the Prime Minister’s newly-appointed chief Europe adviser David Frost is said to have told EU officials that an alternative to the backstop “would not be ready now for Brexit”.
That prompted one Brussels source to tell The Guardian: “That message has now gone loud and clear to capitals, it was useful to hear it from horse’s mouth. Reality is sinking in.”
An EU source meanwhile told The Telegraph the “working hypothesis” in Brussels was “now no-deal”.
And a senior diplomat said of the meetings with Mr Frost: “It was clear UK does not have another plan. No intention to negotiate, which would require a plan. A no-deal now appears to be the UK government’s central scenario.”