According to the FT, ahead of a meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz with European Council President Donald Tusk, the prime minister said that while the chances of a revised Brexit withdrawal agreement being finalized were "improving," the process remained "touch and go."
Reuters reports that Johnson is planning to pitch Tusk on the possibility that the UK pay up only a small fraction of the money - some £10 billion - if the UK leaves without a deal.
Though a senior French official insisted earlier this week that Johnson's government would be obligated to make the severance payment regardless of whether a deal was struck, Johnson said the UK would not be obliged to hand over a significant chunk of the divorce bill, something that had been agreed upon by his predecessor, Theresa May.
As Johnson sees it, the severance payment is one of the most potent tools that the UK PM has to coerce the bloc into reconsidering the hated Irish backstop, something that Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both spoken out against (though Merkel has sounded more accepting of working out an alternative solution).
Johnson has promised the people of the UK that the money could be put to much better use on "other priorities" like the NHS, farmers and "other priorities that are important to our people."