BREXIT DEAL IS WITHIN OUR GRASP
Ahead of today’s crunch meeting with EU boss Juncker, Boris declares...
BORIS Johnson last night vowed that a Brexit deal was within reach as he prepared for key talks with the EU.
He sits down with Brussels chief JeanClaude Juncker in Luxembourg today for the first time since entering Number 10, a meeting which is being
seen as a significant moment in the push to find a Brexit resolution.
Ahead of the meeting with the European Commission president, the Prime Minister struck a confident tone on reaching a deal.
He insisted he thinks “we will get there” and that a “huge amount” of progress is being made.
Mr Johnson said: “I will be talking to Jean-Claude about how we’re going to do it. I’m very confident.”
He added: “When I got this job, everybody was saying there can be absolutely no change to the Withdrawal Agreement, the backstop was immutable, the arrangements by which the UK was kept locked in to the EU forever – they said no one could change that.
“They have already moved off that and, as you know, there’s a very, very good conversation going on about how to address the issues of the Northern Irish border.
“A huge amount of progress is being made.”
A Downing Street source said last night: “The Prime Minister could not be clearer that he will not countenance any more delays. We will be leaving on October 31 – no ifs, no buts.
“Any further extension would be a huge mistake. It is not just a question of the extra dither and delay – it is also the additional long months of rancour and division, and all at huge expense.
“We must finally deliver on the 2016 referendum result. This is why the PM will stress to Mr Juncker that, while he wants to secure a deal, if no deal can be agreed by October 18, his policy is to leave without a deal on October 31 – and reject any delay offered by the EU.”
Today’s crunch meeting comes after Mr Johnson said Britain would break out of the European Union’s “manacles” like The Incredible Hulk if a deal cannot be struck by the end of next month.
The Prime Minister likened Britain to the fictional scientist Bruce Banner, who transforms into the monstrous green Hulk when he is angry in the Marvel superhero comics and movies.
“Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them,” Mr Johnson said in the Sunday newspaper interview.
“Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country.
“We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done.”
Mr Johnson said there were “real signs of movement” among European countries about ditching the backstop – a customs plan to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if a free trade deal between the UK and EU is not reached.
He said that if negotiations broke down, he would ignore the Commons vote ordering him to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said yesterday the “landing zone” for a future deal was in sight, but warned there was still “significant” work to do before October 31. He told Sky News: “There’s been a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes.
We can see a landing zone in terms of a future deal, but there is significant work still to do.”
He also suggested that extending our transition period after Brexit to 2022 was the key to unlocking a new EU deal.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Barclay discussed extending the time frame to allow a new customs system to be put in place.
The move is a sign that Tory Brexiteers are changing their stance to strike a deal with Brussels in time for the Halloween deadline. Under Theresa May’s original plan, Britain would only agree to follow EU rules after our departure and until December 2021.
Mr Barclay’s comments suggest Mr Johnson could be about to resurrect the so-called Malthouse Compromise, a plan first mooted by Tory MP Kit Malthouse.
Policing minister Mr Malthouse, a close ally of the Prime Minister and Mr Johnson’s deputy when he was Mayor of London, advocated the renegotiation of the Northern Ireland backstop during a three-year transition period.
In that time, so-called “alternative arrangements” could be put in place to avoid the need for a hard border in Ireland.
The idea, described at the time as a “managed no-deal”, was rejected by a majority of 210 in Parliament in March – but Mr Barclay’s comments suggest that it is once again forming part of the Government’s thinking. Mr Barclay said: “I think a deal can be done, there is a landing zone that we can see, but there’s a huge amount of work still to do.”
An agreement with Brussels needed “creativity and flexibility on both sides”, he said.
He added that if a deal can be struck, any changes to Britain’s trading relationship with the EU would not apply until the end of the implementation period, which is December 2020, or one or two years later by mutual agreement.
Conservative Brexiteer Nigel Evans said: “I am absolutely content with the idea of a longer transition period, as long as we are out on October 31.
“Once we are out, we are out, and we can start negotiating a trade deal that is to the benefit of the UK and the EU.
“I think most Brexiteers will share that opinion, other than those who want us to leave with no deal.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday that the “entire machinery of government” was focused on securing a deal.
EC president Jean-Claude Juncker
Showdown talks... Boris Johnson
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