The European Union’s frustration with Boris Johnson about his Brexit strategy was laid bare after the British Prime Minister met the bloc’s top official Jean-Claude Juncker.
Mr Johnson and the European Commission president sat down for their first face-to-face talks in a restaurant in Mr Juncker’s native Luxembourg.
Following their talks, the commission said Mr Johnson had still not made legally operational proposals to replace the backstop – the controversial contingency measure which keeps the UK closely tied to EU rules to prevent the return of a hard border with Ireland.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel went further, warning that EU citizens were facing mounting uncertainty due to Brexit while standing next to an empty podium after Mr Johnson pulled out of a joint appearance.
“You can’t hold their future hostage for party political gains,” Mr Bettel said.
Gesturing to the empty space where Mr Johnson should have been, Mr Bettel said: “Now it’s on Mr Johnson – he holds the future of all UK citizens and every EU citizen living in the UK in his hands.
“It’s his responsibility. Your people, our people, count on you – but the clock is ticking, use your time wisely.”
The joint statement outside Luxembourg’s Ministry of State was cancelled amid the noise of pro-EU demonstrators.
Mr Johnson decided to only give a statement to a small group of journalists assembled at the nearby residence of the British ambassador, insisting “we’ve got a good chance of a deal”.
But he said it would require movement from the EU side and the Prime Minister again insisted that the UK would leave – with or without an agreement – on October 31.
“Over the last couple of weeks there’s been a lot of work, papers have been shared but we are now in the stage where we have to start really accelerating the work. That was the agreement today,” he said.
“We’ve got to manage this carefully. Yes, we’ve got a good chance of a deal. Yes, I can see the shape of it. Everybody could see roughly what could be done.
“But it will require movement. And it will require the system in which the EU can control the UK after we leave – the so-called backstop – to go from that treaty.”
- Press Association