Published On: Thu, Aug 29th, 2019

Brexit latest: Boris Johnson to force EU Irish backstop compromise next week | UK | News

The Prime Minister will deploy his chief negotiator to the Belgian capital once again to undergo crunch negotiations on the controversial Northern Ireland backstop. David Frost has warned his EU counterparts that both sides will have to “give and take” if there is going to be any chance of a Brexit deal in the coming weeks. He also said the Prime Minister will walk away from the negotiating table unless Brussels agrees to substantial changes to the backstop.

A diplomatic note, seen by, revealed that Mr Johnson is planning to spend the coming weeks attempting to hammer out an alternative solution to prevent customs checks on the Irish border.

The Prime Minister, however, won’t strike any deal with the “currently configured backstop, as well as a Northern Ireland-only version”.

Mr Frost, his top Europe adviser, told diplomats and officials in Brussels yesterday that “both were unacceptable”, according to the memo.

“First said he would be back in Brussels for further meetings next week, and he implied in subsequent weeks,” it reads.

“He was ready to talk and engage and, above all, get down to the detail but this would need to be accompanied by ‘give and take’ on both sides.”

The memo adds that Mr Frost told Brussels officials “the UK were open to all ideas on solving the Irish border issue”.

He met with Stephanie Riso, Michel Barnier’s deputy chief negotiator, and Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff, Clara Martinez Alberola, Donald Tusk’s chief of staff, Piotr Serafin, as well as senior officials in the EU Parliament.

Mr Frost told the eurocrats that the Prime Minister’s “first option” was to strike a deal, and said they should not be concerned about his decision to prorogue Parliament.

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“They agreed to intensify the discussions as of next week.”

EU negotiators believe that the UK will need help in providing a solution to the backstop conundrum, after previously putting the onus on London to provide an answer.

A source said: “We’re not entirely sure the UK are ready to put forward all their ideas alone – they might want a helping hand in trying to find solutions.

“Whereas the reading on the EU side has been more that the onus is on the UK to find realistic workable solutions.

“No 10 are trying to impress that there is actually a way to get this whole thing through and wrapped up by October 31.”

Diplomats expect the talks to go down to the wire, with the apparent 30-day deadline pushed by Mr Johnson not being considered a formality.

“We weren’t expecting him to come with concrete proposal, even less so now that it sounds like the 30-day deadline now runs until October,” one source said.

Today Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok signalled that the EU27 is anticipating British proposals to replace the backstop.

He told reporters on the fringes of an EU ministerial meeting in Helsinki: “We still hope it will be possible to avoid a no-deal Brexit and we are looking forward to any proposals from the British government that fit into the withdrawal agreement.

“It’s in nobody’s interest to see a no-deal Brexit.

“I know that there have been serious talks in Brussels but we are not there yet.”

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