Ahead of to­day’s crunch meet­ing with EU boss Juncker, Boris de­clares...

Daily Express - - FRONT PAGE - Se­nior Political Cor­re­spon­dent By Mar­tyn Brown

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

Jo Swin­son and Lib Dem del­e­gates yesterday as they voted to re­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 if the party wins a ma­jor­ity at the next elec­tion

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