Johnson, Juncker to meet in Brexit breakthrough bid
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will hold face-to-face talks next week in a bid to break the Brexit impasse.
European and British officials say the meeting will take place Monday in Luxembourg.
No further details were provided. It comes as lower-level Brexit negotiations have produced few signs of progress as the October 31 deadline for Britain’s departure from the European Union nears.
The key stumbling block remains the so-called Irish backstop, a manoeuvres to prevent both sides from putting in a hard border between Ireland, which is in the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
British officials fear the backstop could keep Britain tied to EU rules and regulations even after it withdraws from the bloc.
With concerns about the social and economic costs of a “no-deal” Brexit rising, Britain’s Parliament has passed a law saying the prime minister must seek an extension to the Brexit deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October.
Johnson has indicated he will not do so, insisting Britain will leave the EU on October 31 even without a divorce deal.
John Bercow, the retiring speaker of Britain’s lower house of parliament, says Parliament is willing to take forceful actions to make sure the law designed to block a “no-deal” Brexit is followed.
The influential speaker says he will allow “procedural creativity” in making sure Johnson does not violate the new law, which took effect this week.
Johnson has declared he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit again. Britain voted to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum but has not reached consensus on how to do so.
Bercow said in a speech Thursday night that the prime minister must obey the law and that it is “astonishing” that any other course is being contemplated.
“It would be the most terrible example to set to the rest of society,” he said.
Bercow plans to step down by the end of October but it is clear he will use his final weeks to make sure Parliament’s will is respected on the crucial question of a possible “no-deal” departure from the EU bloc.
The British government’s own assessment suggests an abrupt departure from the EU’s single market without an agreement risks severe economic problems and possible food and medicine shortages in Britain.