Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference at the end of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
LONDON (Reuters) – British negotiators will hold twice-weekly talks with European Union officials next month in an attempt to rework the Brexit agreement that Britain’s parliament has repeatedly rejected, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday.
Johnson has promised to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a transition deal, and has demanded the removal of the existing deal’s ‘backstop’, which the EU wants to ensure an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“While I have been encouraged with my discussions with EU leaders over recent weeks that there is a willingness to talk about alternatives to the anti-democratic backstop, it is now time for both sides to step up the tempo,” Johnson said.
“The increase in meetings and discussions is necessary if we are to have a chance of agreeing a deal for when we leave on October 31st,” he added.
The existing backstop would require Northern Ireland – and possibly the whole United Kingdom – to continue to follow many EU rules if future trade talks break down, in order to avoid customs checks on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.
Britain has said technological alternatives to border checks should be possible by the time the backstop might be needed, but has given no details, prompting scepticism from the EU.
“Discussions so far have shown that the two sides remain some distance apart on key issues but that both sides are willing to work hard to find a way through,” Britain’s government said.
Next month’s talks will take place in Brussels and will be led on the British side by lead negotiator David Frost.
Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison