Boris Johnson claims his team has ‘rough outline’ of a Brexit deal amid claims of ‘growing optimism’ in Brussels
- Boris Johnson will travel to capital cities across EU to step up Brexit negotiations
- The PM said he was confident of getting agreement that EU leaders can sign off
- PM’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost is due to travel to Brussels for fresh talks
British negotiators have identified the ‘rough’ outline of a possible Brexit deal, Boris Johnson said yesterday.
In an upbeat assessment, the Prime Minister said he was confident of hammering out an agreement in time for it to be signed off by EU leaders at a crunch summit on October 17.
He will travel to a string of European capitals next week in order to step up the tempo of negotiations.
Boris Johnson said he was confident of hammering out an agreement in time for it to be signed off by EU leaders at a crunch summit on October 17. He said British negotiators have identified the ‘rough’ outline of a possible Brexit deal
‘I’m very hopeful that we will get a deal, as I say, at that crucial summit,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘We’re working very hard. I think we can see the rough area of a landing space, of how you can do it – it will be tough, it will be hard, but I think we can get there.’
Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform think-tank, said there was growing optimism in Brussels that a deal was possible on the backstop – the controversial measure designed to prevent the re-emergence of a hard border across Ireland.
The PM’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost, above, is due to travel to Brussels for fresh talks. The two sides are still some way apart on how to handle trade in goods across what will become Britain’s only land border with the EU
Mr Grant said officials were indicating a deal was ‘more likely than I thought’.
He added: ‘Senior figures on the EU side say they can scrap the backstop as long as alternatives deliver on protecting the single market and the Good Friday Agreement.
‘The other member states do not want to put pressure on Ireland. But if the UK gets serious about a deal and shows flexibility, there would be gentle encouragement for Dublin to accept something almost equivalent to backstop.’
Mr Grant said, however, the gap between the two sides ‘may prove unbridgeable’.
And he said many EU officials agreed with Mr Johnson that Parliament’s move to take the possibility of a No Deal exit next month off the table had damaged the chances of success, warning it had ‘taken pressure off the Irish government and UK Parliament to compromise’.
Government sources yesterday said negotiations were focused almost exclusively on identifying alternatives to the backstop.
Mr Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost is due to travel to Brussels for fresh talks.
It is understood the UK has yet to table detailed proposals and is instead focusing on identifying potential areas of compromise.
One official said negotiations were now taking place with ‘increased intensity’.
The PM has already floated the idea of creating an ‘all-Ireland’ zone for food and farming products, cutting out the need for checks at the border with the Republic.
But the two sides are still some way apart on how to handle trade in goods across what will become Britain’s only land border with the EU.
Brussels is interested in reviving plans for a Northern Ireland-only backstop, which would see the province effectively remain within the customs union.
But this would mean creating a customs border in the Irish Sea and is opposed by the DUP and Eurosceptic Tories.
Mr Johnson is pushing instead for the use of ‘alternative arrangements’, which would allow customs checks to be carried out away from the border.
The PM has already floated the idea of creating an ‘all-Ireland’ zone for food and farming products, cutting out the need for checks at the border with the Republic. A motorist crosses the Irish border, above
A Government source said: ‘The key question now is whether the EU will take the risk of allowing checks to be carried out [elsewhere].’
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier struck a downbeat tone, saying Mr Johnson had yet to table any ‘legally operable’ proposals.
Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said the EU was ‘convinced the Prime Minister wants a deal’, but both sides remain some distance apart.