UK PM Johnson sets out defence of new Brexit plan
London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met his senior ministers on Thursday before setting out on a delicate mission to convince sceptical EU leaders to back his new Brexit plan.
Johnson is racing against time and facing headwinds across European capitals as he tries to rally support for a new approach to settling the three-and-a-half-year crisis.
His failure to get both the EU and his own fractured parliament to back his way forward will result in either a crash exit for Britain or a third Brexit delay this year. If he succeeds, Johnson could embark on an even longer and more complex stage of the process, working to negotiate a new trade agreement with the EU.
UK Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said all sides had to start real talks on Johnson's outline by the weekend to have any chance to get a deal in time for an October 17-18 EU leaders' summit in Brussels.
"We need to move forward at pace, intensively," he told BBC radio. "The response from the (EU) Commission is that they recognise that this was a serious proposal and I think all sides want to see a deal.
"All sides recognise that the alternative to no-deal is disruptive." Johnson was due to set out his vision in parliament on Thursday morning after meeting cabinet ministers in Downing Street. Johnson's complicated proposals for preserving a free-flowing border across the island of Ireland after Brexit were met with a guarded reception in Brussels and Dublin.
"There is progress, but to be frank a lot of work still needs to be done," EU's lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker used a call with Johnson to share concerns about what he said were "problematic points".
In Dublin, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the documents "do not fully meet the agreed objectives" for keeping Ireland's border with British province Northern Ireland invisible.
But Johnson appeared to have won vital backing from some members of the UK parliament who had repeatedly rejected the deal former prime minister Theresa May struck with the EU in 2017.
These included more moderate members of the main opposition Labour Party and some of the most ardent eurosceptics among Johnson's own Conservatives. "It's got a very good chance of getting through," Johnson's no-deal Brexit preparations point man Michael Gove told ITV television on Wednesday night.