JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker said tonight “We can have a deal” and “Brexit will happen” in a major boost for Boris Johnson.
The EU boss warned a no-deal Brexit would have “catastrophic consequences” and said he was doing “everything to get a deal”.
Speaking to Sky News, he said he was prepared to get rid of the so-called backstop from a withdrawal agreement as long as “the objectives are met – all of them”.
The EU Commission president told Sky’s Sophy Ridge he’d been sent documents by Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlining draft ideas for a new Brexit deal.
Mr Juncker, 64, said they’d arrived late on Wednesday night and is yet to read them.
He had spoken to Mr Johnson on the phone “without knowing the content of the British proposals”, he said.
The main sticking point over a Brexit deal is the controversial Irish border backstop, which would require Britain to retain some EU trade rules.
Juncker said a deal would revolve around the idea that Northern Ireland would follow EU rules on food and agriculture, with other checks being done away from the border.
“It is the basis of a deal. It is the starting and the arrival point,” he said. “The internal market has to be preserved in its entirety.”
Yesterday Juncker warned the risk of a No Deal remains “very real”, but said he’s prepared to work “day in day out, morning until night” to strike a deal.
Striking a positive note, he said talks with the PM had been “friendly, constructive and, in part, positive”.
Juncker had called on Johnson to provide “operational proposals, in writing, for practical steps” – which the PM has now done.
Britain’s proposals revolve around what’s been dubbed “alternative arrangements”, aimed to give separate guarantees to satisfy politicians in Brussels and London and avoid the need for a hard border.
Johnson appears to have reacted directly to French President Emmanuel Macron, who this week gave him a 12-day deadline to submit written proposals.
And the approach appears to have struck a positive chord with Juncker, who is keen to deliver Brexit by the time he steps down from his role on October 31.
Mr Juncker said: “I was asking the Prime Minister the other day to make concrete proposals as far as so-called alternative arrangements are concerned, allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objectives of the backstop.
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“I don’t have an emotional relationship to the backstop. If the results are there, I don’t care about it.”
He added that “if the objectives are met – all of them – then we don’t need the backstop. It was a guarantee, not an aim by itself.”
And he expressed hope that Britain’s withdrawal will take place by the time he leaves office , insisting: “Brexit will happen.”
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