Is Boris Johnson approaching a Brexit breakthrough? That’s the question being asked among Conservative MPs after there appeared to be movement last week from the government and DUP that could help to secure a deal with the EU. Today the Prime Minister met with EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg to discuss the prospect, over a lunch of pollock and risotto.
On the conclusion of the meeting, a No. 10 spokesman said the pair had agreed to step up discussions and for Michel Barnier and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay to hold talks on a political level:
‘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.’
However a European Commission spokesperson had a somewhat more gloomy readout – saying they still had not received from Boris Johnson specific proposals on replacing the backstop:
‘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.’
So is this real progress or simply both sides attempting to avoid blame for a breakdown for the time being? Agreeing to increase the number of discussions taking place to daily does suggest the EU is interested in finding a solution. However it is clear from the Commission comments that Juncker sees the responsibility for this as primarily sitting with the UK.