The United Kingdom has still not proposed any viable alternatives to the Northern Ireland “backstop” provisions of its withdrawal agreement from Brexit, said the European Union after talks between the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Bloc Chief Jean-Claude Juncker.
The first face-to-face talks between European Commission President Juncker and PM Johnson failed to yield any major breakthrough, although Drowning Street has insisted it has been a “constructive meeting”.
PM Johnson claims that the UK will not agree to divorce deal that includes the backstop, a provision that temporarily keeps Britain in the European Union customs union to keep open the Irish Border and will not delay the agreement beyond October 31, even if it means leaving with no deal.
Mr. Juncker’s office said that he used the lunch meeting to reiterate the European Union in Luxembourg that is the responsibility of Britain to come up with a workable alternative to backstop, which was agreed by former Prime Minister Theresa May but was denied by MPs.
A statement from Mr. Juncker’s office reads: “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,” it added.
Alongside the main meeting, the EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier has also held talks with British Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay.
A small but noisy hold of anti-Brexit protesters agreed to PM Johnson as he arrived and left the discussions, singing the “Ode to Joy” EU Anthem, chanted slogans, and waved flags.
Only six weeks to go before the Brexit Deal, both sides have agreed to step-up the pace of talks, said Downing Street, with negotiators to “soon” start meeting on a regular basis rather than twice a week at the present.
“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,” said a spokesperson.