In Brief

What happened when Johnson met Juncker

‘Friendly’ meeting fails to solve the backstop obstacle

The European Commission said the UK has yet to propose a solution to replace the backstop after Boris Johnson met Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday.

Although Downing Street insisted the working lunch had been “constructive,” the Commission said afterwards that no proposals had been put forward to replace the obstacle.

The backstop is a back-up plan, or position of last resort, to be implemented if a permanent trading arrangement is not agreed with the European Union during the 21-month transition period after the UK quits the EU.

Boris Johnson says the backstop is “undemocratic” and is insisting that it is removed from any Brexit deal. Brussels said it is prepared to consider alternatives but is awaiting suggestions from London. “Such proposals have not yet been made,” as a statement from the Commission put it.

After the meeting, Downing Street said: “The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis.

“It was agreed that talks should also take place at a political level between Michel Barnier and the Brexit secretary, and conversations would also continue between President Juncker and the prime minister.”

Juncker’s spokeswoman said negotiations with UK will continue “at speed” after the “friendly” lunch.

Earlier, the UK prime minister had sounded an optimistic note. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, ahead of the meeting, he said: “If we can make enough progress in the next few days, I intend to go to that crucial summit on 17 October, and finalise an agreement that will protect the interests of business and citizens on both sides of the Channel, and on both sides of the border in Ireland.

“I believe passionately that we can do it, and I believe that such an agreement is in the interests not just of the UK but also of our European friends.”

Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokesman has rejected the suggestion that the UK might be prepared to accept a longer transition period to help reduce the need for a backstop.

“In the event we were able to secure a deal, there is no intention to extend the implementation period beyond December 2020,” said Boris Johnson’s spokesman.

Later in the day, Johnson cancelled an appearance at a press conference in Luxembourg after being heckled by demonstrators nearby.

The prime minister was due to make a statement alongside the Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, but Bettel appeared alone.

“He holds the future of all UK citizens,” said Bettel, gesturing at the empty podium by his side. “It's his responsibility. Your people, our people count on you.”

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