WATCH: Jean-Claude Juncker offers Boris Johnson Brexit lifeline by hailing 'basis of a deal'
Jean-Claude Juncker has offered Boris Johnson a Brexit lifeline by saying the "basis of a deal" is in place.
The European Commission president spoke out after the Government produced proposals on how the Irish backstop could be replaced.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Juncker - who held talks with the Prime Minister earlier this week - said he did not have an "erotic relationship" with the backstop, which is aimed at guaranteeing no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Mr Juncker said: “I had a meeting with Boris Johnson that was rather positive. I think we can have a deal.
“I am doing everything to have a deal because I don’t like the idea of a no-deal because I think this would have catastrophic consequences for at least one year.
"If the objectives are met - all of them - then we don't need the backstop."
On the UK government's proposals for replacing the backstop, Mr Juncker said: “It is the basis of a deal. It is the starting and the arrival point."
His comments came ahead of talks between Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, on Friday.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Johnson struck a cautiously optimistic tone, saying: "I don't want to exaggerate the progress that we are making, but we are making progress."
On fixing the backstop and ensuring no hard border returns to Northern Ireland, he said: "We think we can do that.
"We think we can solve that problem and I think we are making some progress."
The Prime Minister added: "Let's see where we get. It is vital whatever happens that we prepare for no-deal, and we will be ready for no-deal on 31 October.
“We have got to do both things at once.”
Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster appeared to soften her Brexit stance by saying she is open to some all-Ireland solutions to the backstop.
Prerviously, the party has insisted it would not agree to anything which separated Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Ahead of a meeting with Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, she said: “What we want to see happening is a recognition that we are on an island.
“We recognise the unique history and geography.”
Mr Varadkar said the gap between Britain and the EU remained wide, but said there was political will to do a deal.
Ahead of an expected meeting with Mr Johnson at UN General Assembly in New York next week, he added: “The rhetoric has tempered and the mood music is good.
"There is a lot of energy and a lot of positivity.
“The difficulty is that when it comes to the substance of the issue that needs to be resolved, the gaps are still very wide and we have no time to lose.”