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UK's Johnson insists there is time for a Brexit deal

By Earle Gale in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-10-07 03:34
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he gives a closing speech at the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, Britain, Oct 2, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there is still time for a divorce deal to be agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union before the Oct 31 deadline by which the nation intends to end its marriage with the bloc.

He made the claim in columns he wrote for two Sunday newspapers, insisting his proposed deal is gaining support among members of the British Parliament and that it is much more likely to gain the approval of British lawmakers than his predecessor's version ever was.

"We are leaving in 25 days," he wrote in both the Sun on Sunday and the Sunday Express. "We can do it with a deal if the EU is willing … I say to our European friends: Grasp the opportunity our new proposal provides. Join us at the negotiating table in a spirit of compromise and cooperation."

Johnson unveiled his proposed deal last week in meetings with EU officials and has since explained it to lawmakers in the UK's Houses of Parliament. It calls for the use of technology and customs checks far from the border in order to avoid the future reinstatement of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which remains an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is set to leave the EU along with the rest of the UK. Both the UK and the EU have been eager to avoid the reinstatement of a hard border on the island of Ireland over fears it could rekindle sectarian violence that flared throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that he thought a deal was "certainly possible" but that it "depends on one crucial element: that also Mr Johnson as well as the EU are willing and ready to move in a compromise manner".

"If the offer from the UK turns out to be 'take it or leave it', it's going to be very difficult," he said.

Ireland's leader, Leo Varadkar, has also said he believes a deal between the UK and the EU is possible but that the one on the table at the moment needs more work.

Talks between UK and EU negotiators were set to resume on Monday, with both sides aiming to find an agreement ahead of a summit of European leaders set for Oct 17 and 18.

While the UK is set to leave the bloc on Oct 31, the nation and the bloc have already agreed to a transitional period that will end at the end of December 2020, during which the UK will continue to behave as if it were a member of the EU and during which some details of their separation could be finalized.

Stephen Barclay, the UK's Brexit secretary, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that there are "positive sounds" of support from MPs in the British Parliament but also resistance from some opposition MPs and some people in the EU.

"My message to the EU and anti-Brexit opposition is this: We are not backing down," he wrote.

The Financial Times said on Sunday that Johnson had been frustrated that EU leaders had declined to take part in negotiations on the weekend. It said he placed a call to Mark Rutte,the prime minister of the Netherlands, on Saturday in a bid to get him to convince his peers to take part in talks.

The paper said Johnson has been told that the EU wants wholesale changes to his proposals in the coming days and that border checks on the island of Ireland are very unpopular.

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