Boris Johnson to hold Brexit talks with EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier

Written by Corby Radio News on 13th September 2019


Boris Johnson will hold Brexit talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and chief negotiator Michel Barnier next week.

The meeting with Mr Juncker on Monday will be the pair’s first face-to-face meeting since Mr Johnson entered Downing Street in July.

A European Commission spokeswoman described the meeting between Mr Juncker and Mr Johnson as a "working lunch".

At a speech in Rotherham an upbeat prime minister announced that he would also be meeting Mr Barnier, adding: "There is the rough shape of a deal to be done on Brexit.

"I am cautiously optimistic about a Brexit deal."

It comes as Mr Johnson continues his bid to strike a new agreement with the EU ahead of the currently scheduled exit day of 31 October.

Number 10 sources have played down hopes of an imminent breakthrough in the negotiations, saying there was still a "long way to go".

And the European Commission spokeswoman said she was "not going to speculate" on what Mr Juncker hoped to achieve from the meeting.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has warned that the gap between London and Brussels on the issue of the backstop remained "very wide".

"We have always said we would be willing to look at alternative arrangements, but what we’re seeing falls far short," he told RTE radio.

"We are exploring what is possible.

"The gap is very wide but we will fight for and work for a deal until the last moment, but not at any cost."

The backstop, which is part of the withdrawal agreement Theresa May negotiated with the EU, is an insurance policy designed to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Johnson has called for it to be scrapped, but the EU has said its presence in the deal is not up for negotiation.

His talks with Mr Juncker are the latest in a round of meetings with top EU figures, including Mr Vardkar, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

© Sky News 2019

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