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Britain ‘working flat out’ for deal, Johnson says before Brexit talks

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he is “working flat out” to secure a Brexit deal by Oct. 31, ahead of crucial talks on Monday with European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker.

Johnson is due to meet Juncker over lunch in Luxembourg on Monday for the first time since taking office as prime minister in late July, as efforts to prevent a no-deal Brexit show little sign of progress.

Johnson has vowed not to further postpone Britain’s EU departure date, while refusing to accept the terms of a deal negotiated with Brussels aimed at smoothing the transition.

“If we can make enough progress in the next few days, I intend to go to that crucial (EU leaders) summit on Oct. 17 and finalise an agreement that will protect the interests of business and citizens on both sides,’’ Johnson wrote in The Daily Telegraph.

“I believe passionately that we can do it,’’ he said.

At their meeting, in Juncker’s native Luxembourg, Johnson will “make it clear…that he will reject another extension, if offered’’, a British government source said, on condition of anonymity.

The talks will take place amid mounting frustration at the lack of concrete proposals out of London.

“There are no indications of a breakthrough,’’ an EU diplomat said on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In particular, London rejects the so-called backstop aimed at preventing the emergence of border controls between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom.

“The open border is at the core of a peace deal for the divided island.

In recent weeks, British Brexit negotiator, David Frost, has held technical talks with the European Commission to find “workable solutions” to remove the backstop, a British spokesman said.

This includes ideas on “customs, manufactured goods and ways forward in managing agri-food on a common basis on the island of Ireland’’.

“We want a deal. This cannot include the backstop,’’ the British source said.

But Juncker said he was “not optimistic” about finding alternative arrangements that could replace the backstop.

Without a transitional Brexit deal, EU rules cease to apply in Britain overnight, likely causing disruption and serious economic costs on both sides of the border.

Ahead of Monday’s talks, a European business association warned of the “massive damage” a no-deal Brexit would cause.

“No deal is a recipe for disaster and should be definitely ruled out,’’ said Markus Beyrer, the Head of BusinessEurope.

In a weekend newspaper interview, Johnson again vowed to stick to the Oct. 31 deadline, referencing the Incredible Hulk cartoon character in Marvel comics.

“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,’’ he said on Sunday.

“Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound-in he seemed to be, and that is the case for this country.

“We will come out on Oct. 31 and we will get it done,’’ Johnson added.
FAT/AIB

Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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