EU: Operational proposals to replace Brexit backstop ‘have not yet been made’

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Brussels has stepped up its demands for Boris Johnson to set out his plan for a Brexit deal after talks between the prime minister and European Union chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Johnson and the European Commission president sat down for their first face-to-face talks in a restaurant in Juncker’s native Luxembourg.

But while Juncker said the talks were “friendly” and negotiations will proceed “at high speed”, there was little public sign of a breakthrough.

The commission said the government had still not made “legally operational solutions” to replace the controversial Irish backstop element of the Brexit divorce deal, which keeps the UK closely tied to EU rules in order to avoid a hard border.

A European commission statement released following the working lunch at Luxembourg City’s Le Bouquet Garni restaurant said: “President Juncker recalled that it is the UK’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement.

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“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.”

Both Brexit secretary Steve Barclay and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier were at the lunchtime meeting with the prime minister and commission president.

Downing Street said the meeting was “constructive” and contact between the two sides would be stepped up.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister reconfirmed his commitment to the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement and his determination to reach a deal with the backstop removed, that UK parliamentarians could support.

“The prime minister also reiterated that he would not request an extension and would take the UK out of the EU on October 31.

“The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis.

“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.”

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