EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he did not have an “erotic relationship” with the Irish backstop – as he declared “we can have a deal”.
In an apparent change of heart, Mr Juncker declared for the first time he was willing to scrap the controversial backstop which critics fear will keep Britain tied to EU regulations.
Calling his lunch with Boris Johnson 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.”
He said: “As far as these so-called alternative arrangements are concerned, allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objectives of the backstop – I don’t have an erotic relationship to the backstop – but 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.”
‘MOOD MUSIC IS GOOD’
The pound reached a two-month high following Mr Juncker’s comments.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also made his most positive comments since renegotiations began, saying “the mood music is good”.
Mr Johnson yesterday welcomed the softening in Mr Juncker’s position, saying: “I think we are making some progress.”
But Downing Street sources warned there was still “a long way to go” before a deal was struck.
Mr Varadkar and Mr Johnson will meet at a UN summit in New York next week.
However France president Emmanuel Macron last night challenged Mr Johnson to start negotiating seriously with the EU to break the deadlock.
He told Time Magazine: “If they propose something which is compliant with the EU requirements, our negotiator can move. I think I see a lot of noise without a lot of serious discussion. So it’s time to discuss seriously.”
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Britain has begun sending technical papers about possible solutions to the impasse to Brussels negotiators.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay will meet the EU’s Michel Barnier for political talks in Brussels today.
Mr Barclay warned the EU against a “rigid” approach and suggested the final details of an alternative to the Irish backstop may not need to be resolved until the end of 2020.