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Encouraged by Johnson’s visit, UK officials now hoping rest of EU agrees to work on Brexit solution


Britain is
hoping the rest of the European Union falls in behind France and Germany and
agrees to work on solving a deadlock over Brexit, with officials sensing a
glimmer of hope after meetings this week, but conscious of the need for a wider
consensus in Europe.

Britain is
on course to leave the EU, its biggest trading partner, on Oct. 31 without any
formal deal to soften the unprecedented divorce, unless both sides agree to
reopen stalled talks and find a way to resolve their differences.

This week,
some British newspapers cheered what they called a major breakthrough and
sterling rose after both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President
Emmanuel Macron offered Prime Minister Boris Johnson what he described as
“positive noises” on their willingness to consider an exit deal agreement.

But Berlin,
Paris and Brussels said the bloc’s position had not altered: the Withdrawal
Agreement struck last year by then-prime minister Theresa May will not be
changed much. And the clock is ticking.

British officials
were also keen to douse talk of a big diplomatic victory but said they were
pleased at the way the prime minister’s first foreign visits had gone and that
there had been a clear willingness to talk about solutions.

A separate
source in Johnson’s office said that while the meetings had been a success in
terms of building rapport between the prime minister and the EU’s two most
powerful leaders, the rest of the bloc needed to show the same desire to work
on a solution.

The source
said Johnson would not make the mistake of thinking Merkel alone could deliver
a new deal for Britain, criticizing previous governments for being too keen on
the idea that the German chancellor could be Britain’s “savior”.

In an
encouraging sign, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday he would be
willing to listen to alternative plans for the Irish backstop – the biggest
stumbling point to agreement – but warned there was no easy solution.

The need for
broader support is likely to be relayed to Donald Tusk, President of the
European Council that brings together all EU member states’ leaders, when he
meets Johnson on Sunday at a G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz.

The meeting
with Tusk, who has been a consistent critic of Britain’s decision to leave the
EU and its handling of negotiations, will give some indication on how much
appetite there is to work for a deal among the rest of the bloc.

Source: Reuters

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