Brexit victory for Boris: EU unity cracks as Dutch PM welcomes Johnson’s backstop plans
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte held discussions with Mr Johnson this afternoon on the controversial Northern Ireland backstop. The Prime Minister was told the bloc would engage with any proposal to avoid customs checks on the border if they are “compatible” with the current withdrawal agreement. In an effort to avoid a no deal Brexit, he has undertaken a diplomatic blitz – holding talks with a number of senior EU leaders.
This morning, Mr Rutte wrote on Twitter: “The EU27 remain open to concrete proposals compatible with the withdrawal agreement.”
He added that any proposal put forward would have to show “respect for the integrity of single market and no hard border on the Irish isle”.
In a Brexit boost for the Prime Minister, Brussels appears to be softening to allow a compromise and prevent no deal.
Jean-Claude Juncker has signalled he will be “constructive” when the two leaders speak on the phone later this evening.
The European Commission president’s spokeswoman said: “This is the second time the two leaders have the opportunity to speak… It will certainly an opportunity to touch base after the G7 discussions.
“More generally, we have been saying we stand ready to engage constructively with the UK on any concrete proposals that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement.
“It is exactly in this spirit of constructiveness and engagement that the two will speak later in the afternoon.”
Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator will also hold talks with his EU counterparts in Brussels tomorrow.
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David Frost is expected to meet Michel Barnier’s deputy, Stephanie Riso, tomorrow at the Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters.
Privately, EU negotiators are cooking up a backstop compromise that would see Britain align to the bloc’s rules for animal and plant health.
The deal would enable Britain to diverge from other EU standards while maintaining a frictionless border on Ireland.
But the plans have yet to be formally discussed between EU and UK officials but could feature in talks between Mr Frost and Ms Riso.
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The Commission has yet to formally confirm its agenda but the British negotiator could also meet other officials.
UK sources say discussions will centre around the Prime Minister’s recent talks with Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron.
Speaking at the G7 summit yesterday, Mr Johnson said: “It is the job of everyone in Parliament to get things done. It’s what our friends and partners on the other side of the Channel want. They want it over.
“If you talk to our friends as I have done over the last few weeks, they are very enthusiastic about getting on with the future.
“They regard Brexit now as an encumbrance: they want to talk about a new partnership, ways we can work together in trade and security.”
Mij Rahman, the head of Europe for the Eurasia Group, said the EU is manoeuvring to ensure it cannot be blamed for a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “The EU will engage in this process earnestly but also tactically so they can’t be blamed for no deal should the effort fail.”
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