UK 'has made no workable proposals on Irish border'

Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg today

The EU is still waiting to hear a workable plan from the UK to replace the Northern Ireland backstop, the European Commission’s outgoing president said today.

Jean-Claude Juncker said talks with the UK will continue "at speed" after he had a "friendly" working lunch with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Luxembourg today.

The aim of the meeting was to take stock of ongoing technical talks between the UK and EU teams and discuss the next steps, the commission said in a statement.

Mr Juncker reminded Mr Johnson that it is the UK’s responsibility, if it does not wish to leave with the backstop arrangements negotiated under then Prime Minister Theresa May, to present new solutions that are compatible with the overall withdrawal agreement, and the need to keep the Irish border open.

However no such proposals have been made, the commission said.

The commission will be “available to work 24/7” and the forthcoming European Council summit on October 17-18 will be an important milestone, the statement added. The other 27 EU states remain united over this.

Also today UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that even if the UK leaves with a deal, it is not considering any extension to the planned transition period, which is set to run until the end of 2020 – a period that was already short when Brexit was scheduled to be on March 29, and is now looking increasingly so.

The negotiated withdrawal agreement allows for a possible extension, to be agreed by a joint EU/UK committee, at the most to the end of 2022.

The aim of the transition period is that nothing should change in practice in the EU and UK’s relationship until it has passed, giving time to negotiate new arrangements on trade, defence and security cooperation, educational, health and air travel agreements etc.

Mr Raab made the comments in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The EU’s new trade commissioner Phil Hogan last week told the Irish Times it would take him eight months just to assemble a new negotiating team to discuss a trade deal with the UK, after which he would expect such a deal to take “a number of years”.

It is therefore difficult to imagine a deal could be ready for the end of next year.

In a Mail on Sunday interview yesterday Mr Johnson insisted the UK would leave the EU on October 31 despite the law passed by MPs that aims to rule out a no-deal exist.

He compared himself to the Hulk saying “the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets” adding: “Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound he seemed to be” – a comment described as “infantile” by the European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt.

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