UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he has ‘cautious’ optimism over Brexit talks, but the EU has said the UK has offered no solution to replace the backstop.
Mr Johnson met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday for a working lunch in Luxembourg in what was the first official face-to-face meeting between the two men since Mr Johnson became Prime Minister back in July.
Following their working lunch, the European Commission released a statement, part of which said;
President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Johnson had a working lunch today in Luxembourg. The aim of the meeting was to take stock of the ongoing technical talks between the EU and the UK and to discuss the next steps.
President Juncker recalled that it is the UK’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement. President Juncker underlined the commission’s continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop. Such proposals have not yet been made.
The commission will remain available to work 24/7. The October European council will be an important milestone in the process. The EU27 remain united.
The backstop has long been a sticking point in the Brexit negotiations. The EU has repeatedly dismissed calls to scrap the backstop and has told the UK to propose an alternative solution – which according to the statement, has not yet been done. For more about the backstop and it’s importance, check out our guide here.
Downing Street also released a statement after the working lunch, in which it described the talks as ‘constructive’. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay were also in attendance at the meeting.
A spokesperson for Number 10 Downing Street said: “The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis. It was agreed that talks should also take place at a political level between Michel Barnier and the Brexit secretary, and conversations would also continue between President Juncker and the prime minister.”
Mr Johnson also reiterated at the meeting that he would not request an extension to Brexit, according to the statement, despite the new law seeking to force him to do so.
After the working lunch, Mr Johnson went to meet with Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg. His arrival was met with loud protests taking place around 30 yards away from the location of a planned press conference. Protestors were reported to be shouting ‘Tell the truth, stop the coup’ through a loudspeaker.