Johnson, Juncker to Discuss `Rough Shape' of Deal: Brexit Update

Johnson, Juncker to Discuss ‘Rough Shape’ of Deal: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) — Boris Johnson will travel to Luxembourg for his first face-to-face talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Brexit on Monday. The prime minister said they will discuss, along with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the “rough shape” of a divorce deal.

Johnson still wants a general election to break the Brexit impasse in Parliament, and was in campaign mode during a speech Friday in northern England — where his Conservative Party is hoping to win over pro-Brexit voters in the opposition Labour Party’s traditional heartlands.

Key Developments:

Johnson to travel to Luxembourg for Brexit talks with EU’s Juncker, Barnier; meeting will be a working lunch, a commission spokeswoman told reporters in BrusselsPrime minister said they’ll discuss the “rough shape” of a Brexit deal, but he was heckled over his suspension of Parliament during his speech in RotherhamIrish PM Leo Varadkar said “exploratory discussions” underway with U.K. on alternatives to the backstop, but two sides still far apartOutgoing House of Commons Speaker John Bercow warned Johnson that MPs won’t let him force a no-deal Brexit. An election will take place for a new Speaker on Nov. 4

Northern Irish Veto Not an Option, Coveney Says (2:50 p.m.)

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney made clear his government wouldn’t allow Northern Ireland’s power-sharing assembly a veto, if the idea of a Northern Ireland-only backstop returned as a way of breaking the impasse.

“I think there is certainly a concern at an EU level that a devolved institution in Northern Ireland could have a veto over how the single market operates, or a border on the single market operates, so it’s not as straightforward as some people are suggesting,” Coveney told reporters in Cork.

Premier Vows to Push Domestic Agenda (1:40 p.m.)

Johnson said he won’t let “shenanigans at Westminster” deter him from pressing on with domestic priorities as well as delivering Brexit. The premier suspended Parliament for five weeks on Monday after MPs voted through a law that forces him to delay Brexit if he can’t get a deal. He accused opposition parties of not wanting an election and not wanting to deliver Brexit either.

“I certainly won’t be deterred by anybody from our goal of coming out of the EU on Oct. 31,” Johnson said. “But I also won’t be deterred from getting on with out domestic agenda.”

He also responded to the heckler in the audience, who earlier asked the prime minister why he wasn’t back in London dealing with Brexit. Johnson said there would be “ample time for Parliament to consider the deal” that he hopes to strike with the EU at Oct. 17-18 EU Council Summit.

Johnson in Campaign Mode With Transport Pledges (1:27 p.m.)

Johnson was in electioneering mode as he made his speech to the Convention of the North conference in Rotherham. He focused on the needs to improve transport infrastructure in the local area, including announcing a plan to give greater control of trains to local authorities in the north of England. He said they’d have more control over their budgets but also more responsibility for problems.

Johnson Heckled Over Parliament Suspension (1.15 p.m.)

Johnson’s speech to the Convention of the North, on the subject of how the government can help parts of the country that aren’t close to London, was interrupted by a heckler, who was angry at the suspension of Parliament. “Maybe get back to Parliament!” the man shouted, urging the prime minister to join MPs “in Parliament sorting out the mess that you created.”

“I’m very happy to get back to Parliament very soon,” Johnson replied, before plowing on.

Javid: Time to Get a Brexit Deal (11:40 a.m.)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said it was time to “knuckle down” and get a deal with the EU, while ruling out any kind of election pact with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Speaking to Bloomberg TV in Helsinki, where he is attending an informal meeting of EU finance ministers, Javid said the U.K. would eventually need a deal with the EU even if it leaves without one on 31 Oct.

“It’s also understood that whether it’s a deal now, eventually we’ll need some kind of deal, so I think it’s in everyone’s interest that we knuckle down, get on with it and strike a deal as soon as we can,” he said.

While Johnson’s administration still plans to leave the EU on Oct 31, Javid insisted the government would abide by “the rule of law”. Ministers are looking at ways to get around a law passed last week by members of Parliament that requires Johnson to ask for an extension if he doesn’t get a divorce deal by Oct. 19.

Javid also ruled out any kind of arrangement or pact with the Brexit Party at the next election. Farage has offered a non-aggression pact in return for Johnson backing a no deal Brexit.

Commons to Elect New Speaker on Nov. 4 (11:35 a.m.)

The House of Commons has announced that the election for a new speaker will take place on Monday Nov. 4, shortly after the incumbent, John Bercow steps down.

The process for choosing the speaker is steeped in tradition. Once Bercow stands aside, the famous Speaker’s Chair inside the Commons chamber will be occupied by the longest serving member of Parliament, 79 year-old former Chancellor Ken Clarke. He will preside over the election as the rival candidates make their pitches to the House.

Successive secret ballots will follow, until one candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, or a single contender remains. By tradition, the winner is dragged from his seat in the Commons and marched across the chamber to take up his new position in the Speaker’s Chair.

Bercow earlier in the week said that he’ll step down On Oct. 31. His deputy, Labour’s Lindsay Hoyle, is the favorite to succeed him.

Johnson to Meet with Juncker on Monday (11:10 a.m.)

Boris Johnson will travel to Luxembourg at “lunchtime” on Monday for Brexit talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, his office said on Friday. It will be the first meeting between Johnson and Juncker since the British premier took office in July.

Later in the day, Johnson will meet with his counterpart in Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel.

The meetings are a sign Johnson is ramping up engagement with the EU to try to resolve the impasse over Brexit. He has pledged to take the U.K. out of the bloc “do or die” on Oct. 31 without a deal if necessary, but that his preference is for a divorce agreement. One U.K. official played down the chances of a breakthrough on Monday.

U.K. Sees Progress in Rolling Over Trade Deals (11 a.m.)

As part of preparations for leaving the European Union, the U.K. has been trying to roll over trade deals with third countries that it currently benefits from through its EU membership, so that they also apply after Brexit. Those deals account for 139 billion pounds ($173 billion) or 10.7% of total trade.

On Friday, the country said it’s now rolled over 64.2% of that trade, and that once an agreement in principle reached Sept. 10 with a group of African nations including South Africa is ratified, the proportion will be 71.2%. That protects 99 billion pounds of commerce; an increase of 38.5 billion pounds since March, according to the government analysis.

Canada remains the biggest holdout against a rollover, with trade worth more than 18 billion pounds currently governed by the EU’s deal with the North American nation. And business groups have said that even some of the rolled over deals don’t protect all trade governed by the existing EU deals, because they have been weakened.

Farage Shows Johnson the Way in Pro-Brexit North (10 a.m.)

Voters in Hartlepool demonstrated why Boris Johnson is traveling north to deliver his election pitch on Friday. They handed control of the northeast town’s council to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, the BBC reported, delivering a significant blow to the Labour Party in an area it traditionally dominates.

Johnson is targeting pro-Brexit voters who have become disillusioned with Labour as it shifts toward backing a second referendum on leaving the European Union. His Conservative Party hopes it can take seats in Leave areas to offset any it might lose to Labour or the pro-EU Liberal Democrats in Remain-leaning districts.

But the Hartlepool result is further evidence he’s unlikely to get the Brexit vote to himself. Johnson’s officials ruled out an electoral pact with Farage this week, but the question won’t go away if the Tories see the pro-Brexit vote still split heading into a national poll.

Brexit Gap ‘Very Big,’ Irish PM Says (Earlier)

Ideas floated so far to replace the backstop — the fallback measure in the Brexit withdrawal agreement designed to keep the Irish border free of checks — fall “very short” of what’s needed, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

In interviews with Irish radio stations RTE and Newstalk, he said that while the two sides are talking and he’ll fight for an agreement to the last day, a no-deal Brexit remains a “real risk.” Some “exploratory discussions” are underway with the British government as Johnson seeks “alternate arrangements” to the backstop, he said.

“We’ve always accepted that alternative arrangements could supersede the backstop,” Varadkar said. “But I think the gap is very big at the moment.”

Wilson: ‘Nonsense’ to Say DUP Softening on Backstop (Earlier)

Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman for the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, denied the party was prepared to shift its red lines to help unlock a divorce deal between the U.K. and the European Union. Wilson was commenting after the Times newspaper reported the DUP would drop its objection to regulatory checks in the Irish Sea — an idea they have always said amounted to barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

The Times article is “totally untrue,” Wilson told BBC Radio. A concession on those lines “is contrary to the position we have adopted throughout the debate,” he said, adding that Boris Johnson’s government has “has made it quite clear that it will not accept an arrangement which has a backstop, which separates Northern Ireland out from the rest of the United Kingdom.”


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–With assistance from Jonathan Stearns, Dara Doyle and Peter Flanagan.

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