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Johnson, Juncker fail to inch closer in first Brexit meeting
Published : 17 Sep 2019, 01:34
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker held their first meeting Monday in Luxembourg on Brexit without breakthrough.
Focusing on the Irish backstop, a protocol aiming to prevent a hard border, the two leaders from different sides of the English Channel found they are not on the same page.
Recalling that it is "the UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement," Juncker underlined the Commission's continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop, said the Commission in a statement after the meeting.
"Such proposals have not yet been made... The EU27 remain united," said the statement.
Meanwhile on Britain's side, after skipping a joint press conference with his Luxembourg counterpart Xavier Bettel, Johnson hailed his meeting with Juncker as "constructive".
"The Prime Minister reconfirmed his commitment to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and his determination to reach a deal with the backstop removed, that UK parliamentarians could support," said the Downing Street in a press release.
He reiterated that he "would not request an extension and would take the UK out of the EU on the 31st October," said the press release.
Johnson and Juncker agreed that "discussions on Brexit needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis" and talks between Michel Barnier, EU's chief Brexit negotiator, and Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, were also agreed to take place, said the press release.
Ahead of his Luxemburg tour, Johnson likened himself to the Incredible Hulk in an interview on Saturday.
"The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets," Johnson told the "Mail On Sunday" newspaper. "Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be and that is the case for this country."
But European officials had dismissed his comparison. "We are talking about something extremely serious. The consequences of no deal will be extremely serious and it looks like this is being treated as a game in which you are the hero sort of story rather than [dealing] with real lives," British newspaper the Guardian quoted an unanimous EU official as saying.
Follows a referendum in which 52 percent of voters supported withdrawal in June 2016, the British government invoked Article 50, starting a two-year Brexit process which was due to conclude with London withdrawing on March 29, 2019.
As the British parliament refused to ratify the negotiated documents with the EU, that deadline has been extended twice, and is currently Oct.31, 2019.