Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 11 December 2019

EU demands Brexit detail from Boris Johnson

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK government had not put forward any new proposals to break logjam

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during the Convention of the North at the Magna Centre in Rotherham, Britain September 13, 2019. Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during the Convention of the North at the Magna Centre in Rotherham, Britain September 13, 2019. Reuters

The European Union’s top official rebuffed efforts by prime minister Boris Johnson to renegotiate a deal that would allow the UK to leave the trading bloc on October 31.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, met Mr Johnson for a working lunch over snails and salmon but discussions remained deadlocked over the key issues that have remained unresolved for months.

Downing Street said the talks in Luxembourg were “constructive” but Mr Juncker said that the UK had failed to come up with new proposals that could resolve problems over checks and at the land border in Ireland.

Following the first meeting between the two men since Mr Johnson came to power in July, EU officials underscored their continuing “willingness” to examine any new proposals if any were ever put forward.

President Juncker told Mr Johnson that it was the UK’s responsibility to come up with solutions that were compatible with the agreement reached with the EU by his predecessor Theresa May, a statement from the Commission said.

He underlined the Commission's continued “willingness and openness” to examine such proposals. “Such proposals have not yet been made,” the statement said.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Johnson said the next “few days” would decide if Britain could strike a deal with the EU, with few signs that the two sides are close to an agreement.

The talks came as the prime minister faced ridicule at home and abroad after likening the UK’s efforts to leaving the EU to the movie, The Incredible Hulk.

“Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country,” he told an interviewer.

Guy Verhofstadt, a senior European parliamentarian, said the comparison was “infantile”. The actor who played the part also tweeted his disdain.

“Boris Johnson forgets that the Hulk only fights for the good of the whole,” tweeted Mark Ruffalo. “Mad and strong can also be dense and destructive.”

Mr Johnson insisted in a newspaper column on Monday that the UK would leave the 28-nation bloc in less than seven weeks with or without a deal on future trading and political relations.

But since taking over as leader, his leadership has been marked by a series of parliamentary defeats.

MPs are convinced they have blocked the premier’s route to a ‘no-deal Brexit’ which would end at a stroke decades of agreed laws and trading agreements.

The future of the land border between EU member Ireland and the UK remains the principal area of disagreement.

A deal struck between the EU and MrsMay included a backstop to keep the Irish border open in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The deal was repeatedly rejected by parliament and Mr Johnson said it would play no part in any future agreement.

In an interview with German radio on Sunday, Mr Juncker said there was no possibility of reopening the agreement negotiated with Mrs May.

“We do not know what the British want in detail, precisely and exactly, and we are still waiting for alternative proposals. I hope we can get it, but time is running out.”

Following the Luxembourg meeting, a spokesman for Downing Street said: “The Prime Minister and President Juncker had a constructive meeting this lunchtime.

“The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis.”

Updated: September 16, 2019 07:33 PM

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