Boris Johnson insists he will give Brexit talks 'a lot of oomph' despite EU shooting down backstop demand
Boris Johnson has insisted he will continue to give his push for a Brexit deal “a lot of oomph”, despite the European Union rejecting his demand to remove the Irish backstop from the existing withdrawal agreement.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that early signs from the EU had been “negative” after European Council President Donald Tusk said the UK was "not proposing realistic alternatives" to the controversial border plan and was effectively supporting the return of a hard border in Ireland.
Mr Johnson sent a four-page letter to the Council chief on Monday night, warning that the backstop - designed to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic open if talks on a future trade deal break down - was “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK”.
He instead called for talks on the border plan to be kicked into the next phase of Brexit negotiations, saying the backstop should be “replaced with a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship”.
But Mr Tusk described the PM’s letter as “misleading” and “inaccurate”.
Responding to those comments, Mr Johnson said he would continue “to make the point that the backstop's going to come out” in talks with the leaders of Germany and France slated for Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
He told Sky News: “At the moment it is absolutely true that our friends and partners are a bit negative. I saw what Donald Tusk had to say and it, you know, wasn't redolent of... a sense of optimism. But I think, actually, we'll get there.
“I think there is a real sense now that something needs to be done with this backstop. We can't get it through Parliament as it is. So I'm going to go at it... with a lot of oomph, as you'd expect, and I hope we'll be making some progress in the course of the next few weeks.
“But clearly one thing that slightly, I think, complicates the picture is that our EU friends still clearly think that there is a possibility that Parliament will block Brexit.
“And as long as they think there's a possibility that Parliament will block Brexit they're unlikely to be minded to make the concessions that we need. So it's going to take a bit of patience.”
MERKEL VOWS 'PRACTICAL' SOLUTIONS
Mr Johnson’s pledge came as German chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to strike a softer tone than Mr Tusk, as she said the the EU would consider "practical" solutions for the Irish border after Brexit.
But she once more made clear that the withdrawal agreement thrashed out by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May will not be reopened as the UK heads for the EU exit on 31 October.
"As soon as we have a practical arrangement where we can abide by the Good Friday Agreement and also define the borders of the [EU's] single market, we won't need the backstop," the German leader said at a press conference in Iceland.
"That means we will, of course, think about practical solutions, and I always say that if you want to find these solutions, you can do so in a short period of time," she said.
"The European Union is ready to do this, but we don't need to open up the withdrawal agreement. It's a question of the future relationship."
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