Posted on Sep 14, 2019
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested on Friday that there was “the rough shape of a deal to be done” over Brexit, as he prepared to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a renewed push to reach an agreement, Reuters reports.
But Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar played down the prospects, saying the gap between Britain and the EU remained “very wide” and he doubted Johnson could make the compromises needed to get a deal and have it ratified by UK parliamentarians.
Johnson will travel to Luxembourg on Monday for his first meeting with Juncker as he seeks to renegotiate the exit deal his predecessor Theresa May reached with the bloc.
Johnson says Brexit will go ahead on October 31st whether or not he reaches a deal. However, parliament passed a law last week ordering him to seek an extension if he fails to reach an agreement with the bloc.
“We are working incredibly hard to get a deal. There is the rough shape of a deal to be done,” Johnson said at a convention of local politicians in northern England, during which he was heckled by a protestor for a decision to suspend parliament for more than a month as the Brexit deadline rapidly approaches.
Doubt over Brexit has created Britain’s biggest political crisis in decades. Johnson’s opponents say he has no real prospect of reaching an agreement with the EU on terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc, and was instead steering the country on a course to crash out without an agreement.
The prime minister says he does want a deal but needs a credible threat to leave without one if he is to persuade the EU to compromise.
Johnson said he would also be meeting with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday.
“We’ll talk about the ideas that we have been working on, and we’ll see where we get. I would say I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Incoming EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan on Friday also said he saw “some cause for optimism” about a breakthrough in negotiations, Irish broadcaster RTE reported.
The main disagreement has been over plans to guarantee the border in Ireland remains open, known as the “backstop”.
The deal reached last year with Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May would guarantee regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland to help keep goods flowing. But the British parliament rejected it three times, with both supporters and opponents of Brexit saying it would leave British territory subject to EU rules with no control over setting them.
Johnson says the border backstop must be replaced to reach any deal. The EU says any replacement must have the same effect, and so far London has offered no proposals that are good enough.
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