British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU on Thursday gave themselves a week to agree on a Brexit plan. Otherwise, the UK will be heading for either a no-deal exit or another humiliating postponement of its departure from the EU.
While support is building for Johnson’s proposals at home, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told a private meeting of European senior diplomats that the latest British blueprint for post-Brexit arrangements along the border with Ireland falls far short of his conditions for a deal, three EU officials said.
Johnson’s challenge is to reach a compromise with Brussels without losing his new converts at home.
The EU is to make a decision in a week about whether the two sides are closing in on a deal, having demanded the British government come up with a better offer.
In a sign of the determination to thrash out an agreement, David Frost, Johnson’s envoy to the EU, immediately resumed talks in Brussels that continued yesterday.
Johnson himself could hold meetings in several European capitals over the weekend, officials said.
After politely welcoming the proposals on Wednesday, the main European institutions broke cover to criticize the plans.
European Council President Donald Tusk, who spoke by telephone to Johnson and Irish President Leo Varadkar, said he was “unconvinced” by the proposals.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described them as “problematic,” while the European Parliament, which has a veto over the final deal, said it had “grave concerns.”
A spokeswoman for the British government said it does not accept the downbeat assessment from European leaders and that progress has been made.
Failure to reach a deal would set the UK on course for a constitutional showdown with few precedents: Johnson has promised to pull the UK out of the EU on Oct. 31 whether the talks succeed or not, while Parliament has already legislated to prevent him pulling the UK out of the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
A Scottish court is to start hearing a case on Friday designed to ensure he complies.
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