Published On: Tue, Sep 3rd, 2019

EU SHOWDOWN: Boris’s Brexit attack dog sent to Brussels for MAJOR talks – ‘We’re waiting!’ | UK | News

Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, is yet to receive any formal proposals to replace the controversial Irish backstop and fears the chances of no deal are growing by the day. His deputy, Stephanie Riso, told EU diplomats that they have “been waiting for quite a while for different ideas and proposals” from London. She will hold technical-level talks with the Prime Minister’s so-called “EU sherpa”, David Frost, in Brussels tomorrow.

EU diplomats fear that Mr Johnson is seeking “MaxFac” solutions to the Irish border, which have previously been rejected Brussels.

But no precise plans have been put on the negotiating table by Mr Frost on his recent visits to the Belgian capital, Ms Riso told the group.

This opened up a potential clash with the British Government after senior Cabinet ministers claimed clear progress in their EU talks.

Steve Barclay dismissed claims by Mr Barnier that the backstop will not be renegotiated by Brussels.

Jean Claude Juncker Boris Johnson

EU insist Boris Johnson hasn’t revealed Brexit plans despite claims UK is making progress (Image: GETTY)

The Brexit Secretary last night told German newspaper Die Welt: “This is in contrast to the position I have heard in several EU capitals. They are open to creative and flexible solutions and are interested in seeing the details from the UK.

“We will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.”

And today Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, told Sky News that British negotiators are starting to show their counterparts in Brussels a number of detailed plans.

He said: “There won’t be another extension. We are now showing them the detail.”

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But figures in Brussels claim that a so-called “sector-by-sector” approach, touted as a potential replacement to the backstop, are yet to be raised at the negotiating table.

Under the proposal, EU safety checks on food and farm goods would be applied across the whole island of Ireland but different sectors of the economy would be gifted the freedom to follow new, British designed, rules.

EU diplomats have discussed the plan on the fringes and has also been pitched by the British Alternative Arrangements Commission as an alternative to avoid customs checks on the border.

A European Council source said: “The long and short of it, there have been no concrete proposals, not even a sketch.”

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Brexit timeline

Brexit timeline (Image: EXPRESS)

Mr Barnier will brief Jean-Claude Juncker’s team of top eurocrats tomorrow while Mr Frost holds talks with his deputy, Ms Riso.

The Commission today revealed that much of its preparations have been focused on readying diplomats and officials for future talks rather than genuine negotiations.

A spokeswoman said: “We are progressively making progress in pursuing the talks because we are meeting now more often.”

“What we are discussing at the moment are alternative arrangements to the backstop and what we need is concrete wording, concrete proposals, which are compatible with the withdrawal agreement,” she added.

“The withdrawal agreement is not now something being discussed.”

Some in Brussels feel that Mr Johnson is merely “running down the clock” rather than holding back genuine plans.

Others suggest that they are happy to wait for the Prime Minister to finally reveal his masterplan “at the right moment”.

On a visit to Ireland, United States vice president Mike Pence urged the EU to negotiate in “good faith” with Britain to avoid no deal.

He said: “We urge Ireland and the European Union, as well, to negotiate in good faith with Prime Minister Johnson and work to reach an agreement that respects the United Kingdom’s and minimises the disruption to commerce.”

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