Further details have emerged of the UK’s hardball tactics as an air of mutual mistrust continues to dominate Brexit talks while the clock runs down.
Despite the European Union’s repeated calls for legally operable text to be presented by the UK before formal negotiations can resume, the UK has so far only shown the Northern Ireland protocol – the formal name for the Irish backstop – with “what we want removed”, a government source confirmed.
David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief sherpa, is said to be keeping a plan locked safe in his briefcase but the exact wording has not been shared with Brussels.
The government source said while “papers” detailing the UK’s position had been taken into meetings, they are consciously not being left behind.
Yesterday, City AM reported that legal text was being held back until the eleventh hour, for fear the EU would “trash” whatever was submitted. It is increasingly thought something will be presented during or soon after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which is being held in New York from 24-30 September.
That could leave just over a fortnight before member states convene for the European Council on 17 October, giving them limited opportunity to find fault with the UK’s position.
Yesterday morning Johnson held a phone call with German chancellor Angela Merkel in which he once again stressed his aim to find a deal “without the backstop which the UK Parliament could support” before 31 October.
The pair will discuss Brexit further at UNGA, where Johnson is expected to meet other key players including European Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Following a successful meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, Frost and his team will begin meeting their counterparts daily from the end of this week.
It is hoped the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier will begin meeting Brexit secretary Steve Barclay from next week.
But the breakdown in relations was laid bare on Monday afternoon, when Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel theatrically ‘empty-podiumed’ Johnson.
Main image: Getty