BORIS Johnson has defied a fresh EU deadline to publish his Brexit deal plan as he targets “10 intensive days” in October for a breakthrough instead.
The PM was served with a new ultimatum of September 30 to come forward with his long-promised blueprint to replace the Irish backstop, with Finnish leader Antti Rinne threatening it would be “game over” for a deal if not.
Boris Johnson, pictured arriving at Salisbury Plain, has defied the EU’s new deadline[/caption]
But Downing Street shrugged that off as another Brussels trick to ramp up the pressure.
A No10 spokesman said Mr Johnson would produce his proposals “when we are ready, not according to an artificial deadline”.
Hitting back with their own barb, the spokesman insisted there was no point until “the EU is clear that it will engage constructively on them as a replacement for the backstop.”
Instead, Boris plans to intensify pressure on Brussels by holding back his plan until after the Tories’ annual conference is over – leaving just two breakneck weeks of brinkmanship to forge a deal in before a crunch EU summit begins on October 17.
A senior close to the PM told The Sun: “There will be 10 or 11 intensive days after October 2. We will know by the start of the summit week whether there’s a deal to be done or not”.
The senior source added: “Everyone needs to jump at the same time during that period, and there are an awful lot of different people who need to jump.
“Until then, it’s all basically just shadow boxing.”
‘WE CAN HAVE A DEAL’
A deal in time for the October 31 exit deadline was given fresh hope when two prominent EU figures talked up its chances.
Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker declared for the first time that he is willing to scrap the backstop.
Mr Johnson’s primary demand is to replace the insurance policy that keeps the UK tied to EU rules indefinitely with a system of stand-off checks to keep the Irish border open – dubbed alternative arrangements.
Dubbing his lunch with Boris in Luxembourg on Monday as “a rather positive meeting”, Mr Juncker told Sky News: “We can have a deal”.
Asked if the chances were more than 50-50, he added: “I don’t know. But I’m doing everything to have a deal, because I don’t like the idea of a no deal.
“As far as alternative arrangements are concerned, allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objective of the backstop, I don’t have an erotic relation to the backstop.
“If the results are there, I don’t care about the instrument. If the objectives are met – all of them – then we don’t need the backstop.”
Ireland’s leader, who will play a pivotal part in any deal, also said “the mood music is good”.
After meeting DUP boss Arlene Foster in Dublin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar issued his most positive comments yet since Mr Johnson began his renegotiation.
Mr Varadkar said: “The rhetoric has tempered. There is a lot of energy and a lot of positivity”.
But managing expectations, he added: “The difficulty is that when it comes to the substance of the issue that needs to be resolved, the gaps are still very wide”.
Mr Varadkar and Boris will meet in the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week for more talks.
On a visit to inspect troops on Salisbury Plain, the PM said: “I don’t want to exaggerate the progress we are making, but we are making progress”.
A “way forward” on the Irish backstop is possible and “we can solve that problem”, he added.
It also emerged that Britain has began to send technical papers about possible solutions to the impasse to Brussels negotiators.
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Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay will meet the EU’s Michel Barnier for political talks in Brussels.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted the Government is holding back its backstop blueprint to stop the EU trying to immediately “shoot it all down”.
Saying Brussels pulled the same stunt on ex-Tory PM Theresa May, he added: “We are not falling into the trap of playing that game”.
A No10 spokesman said Mr Johnson would produce his proposals ‘when we are ready, not according to an artificial deadline’[/caption]
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