Boris Johnson is off to New York
In a sign efforts to clinch a deal are being stepped up, he is to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel together on Monday to discuss details of his proposals for replacing the “backstop” border measure. Mr Johnson will also hold talks with EU Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Premier Leo Varadkar in New York, as well as meeting US President Donald Trump to discuss a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal. A Government source said of the Brexit negotiations: “What is encouraging is that it is clear that all sides do want to try to achieve a deal. The onus now is on everybody to work hard to try to find a way through.”
For the first time on an official overseas visit since taking over in Downing Street, the Prime Minister will be joined by his girlfriend Carrie Symonds.
She will travel independently to New York but is expected to attend events focusing on climate change and biodiversity with her boyfriend in her capacity as an environmental campaigner.
Downing Street officials say her presence will not involve any cost to taxpayers.
Mr Johnson said last night: “This week at UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] I will be raising three crucial issues.
“First, how Britain can work with our European and American allies on peace and stability in the Middle East.
Irish PM Leo Varadkar and Jean-Claude Juncker
“Second, how science and new technologies can help the world deal with climate change and the threats to biodiversity.
“Third, how post-Brexit Britain will be a better place to invest in and live in.”
Mr Johnson’s talks with EU leaders follow increased signs of momentum in the Brexit negotiations this week after UK officials handed their EU counterparts unofficial documents outlining alternative proposals for keeping Northern Ireland’s border with the Irish Republic free of customs checks.
Three documents are understood to have set out plans for customs, agricultural foods and manufacturing goods after Brexit.
EU Exit Secretary Stephen Barclay last night hailed a sense of “common purpose” between the two negotiating teams after holding talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels yesterday.
“There is a shared desire reflected in the meeting today to secure a deal. Because we both recognise that the deal is in the interest of both sides.
“No one wants to see a no-deal, it would be disruptive for both sides and that’s why there is a shared sense of purpose to get a deal over the line.
“There is a common purpose both in Dublin, in London and here in Brussels to see a deal over the line,” Mr Barclay said.
EU officials were more downbeat after the meeting, however. One Brussels source said: “Despite all of the positive mood music in public, the truth is that there’s been no real progress to speak of.”
Mr Barnier said: “Brexit is a school of patience but we are still ready to reach an agreement.
“You ask me if I am optimistic or pessimistic. The famous grandfather of the EU, Jean Monnet, said ‘I am not optimistic, I am not pessimistic, I am still determined’.”
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay
In a statement following the talks between Mr Barclay and Mr Barnier, the European Commission said: “It is essential that there is a fully workable and legally operational solution included in the Withdrawal Agreement.
“We remain willing and open to examine any such proposals that meet all the objectives of the backstop.”
Their meeting came after Ireland played down the prospect of an imminent Brexit breakthrough, pointing to a “wide gap” between Mr Johnson’s position and that of the European Union.
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said: “There are serious problems that arise because of the change in approach by the British Prime Minister – asking to remove a very significant section within the Withdrawal Agreement without any serious proposals as to how you solve those problems is not going to be the basis for an agreement.
He told Radio 4’s Today programme that Ireland is being asked to replace a “guarantee around that border question” with a promise that “somehow we’ll do our best”.
He said: “We want to find a solution, we want to get a deal, and we want to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly and sensible manner, but we cannot allow Ireland to be the collateral damage of that.
“I think for Britain to ask us to do that is a very unreasonable request, and it won’t be the basis of a deal.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte yesterday said a Brexit deal was possible by October 31 but insisted he had not seen any new solutions to the Irish border problem.
“With a few nights of hard work a lot can be done, but it all starts with the will to agree. I can only respond to real, specific proposals,” he said.
Published at Fri, 20 Sep 2019 23:01:00 +0000