Monday 16 September 2019 1:40 pm

Barnier to resume Brexit talks as Johnson swerves press conference

Jean-Claude Juncker has given the go-ahead for the EU’s chief negotiator to resume meetings with the UK’s Brexit secretary, following a meeting today with Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister lunched with the President of the European Commission in a Luxembourg restaurant – the first time the two have met since Johnson took the keys for Number 10.

Although there were no expectations of a major breakthrough, the pair today agreed that Michel Barnier and Stephen Barclay would begin meeting again “at a political level”, in a signal that the two sides are poised to upgrade talks towards active negotiations.

Meetings, including those between sherpa David Frost and the EU’s Taskforce 50, would soon take place on a daily basis, the two agreed.

Conversations will also continue between Juncker and Johnson.

Following the “constructive” meeting, Downing Street spokesperson said: “The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis.”

However, the Commission was less upbeat. In its statement following the lunch, it noted that Juncker had reminded Johnson it was the UK’s “responsibility” to come up with legally operable alternatives to the backstop.

“Such proposals have not yet been made,” it added.

Johnson later met with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, after which he was scheduled for a press conference and Q&A, but did not take part. The conference took place in front of a sizeable crowd of Brexit protesters.

Speaking next to an empty podium Bettel said the bilateral meeting had lasted “longer than planned”, and initially appeared willing to thank Johnson.

But Bettel grew increasingly heated as he attacked the “lies” of the Vote Leave referendum campaign and the inadequacies of the Remain campaign.

Asked why the UK had not submitted written proposals, he stressed he was “not Mr Johnson’s speechwriter”.

“These are homemade problems and we now have all to deal with them… I won’t accept [responsibility] for the mess we are in for the moment,” he added.

Main image: Getty