EU: Operational proposals to replace Brexit backstop ‘have not yet been made’

Brussels has stepped up its demands for Boris Johnson to set out his plan for a Brexit deal after talks between the Prime Minister and European Union chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mr Johnson and the European Commission president sat down for their first face-to-face talks in a restaurant in Mr Juncker's native Luxembourg.

But while Mr Juncker said the talks were "friendly" and negotiations will proceed "at high speed", there was little public sign of a breakthrough.

The commission said the Government had still not made "legally operational solutions" to replace the controversial Irish backstop element of the Brexit divorce deal, which keeps the UK closely tied to EU rules in order to avoid a hard border.

A European Commission statement released following the working lunch at Luxembourg City's Le Bouquet Garni restaurant said: "President Juncker recalled that it is the UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement.

"President Juncker underlined the Commission's continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop. Such proposals have not yet been made."

Both Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier were at the lunchtime meeting with the Prime Minister and commission president.

Downing Street said the meeting was "constructive" and contact between the two sides would be stepped up.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister reconfirmed his commitment to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and his determination to reach a deal with the backstop removed, that UK parliamentarians could support.

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Boris Johnson in Luxembourg
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Boris Johnson in Luxembourg
LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG - SEPTEMBER 16: Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel speaks to the media following talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on September 16, 2019 in Luxembourg, Luxembourg. Johnson met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for a working lunch earlier today. Johnson is pressing forward for a possible hard Brexit, though he has also been meeting with European leaders recently in an apparent effort to still strike a Brexit deal. (Photo by Joshua Sammer/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the UK ambassadors residence after meeting Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Luxembourg.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson arriving at the UK ambassador's residence after meeting Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Luxembourg.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson arriving for his meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel at the Ministry of State in Luxembourg. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, outside Le Bouquet Garni restaurant in Luxembourg, prior to a working lunch on Brexit. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, inside Le Bouquet Garni restaurant in Luxembourg, prior to a working lunch on Brexit. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker leaving Le Bouquet Garni restaurant in Luxembourg after their working lunch on Brexit. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG - SEPTEMBER 16: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker greets British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the European Commission Representation on September 16, 2019 in Luxembourg. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is holding his first meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in search of a Brexit deal. (Photo by Francisco Seco - Pool/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker leaving Le Bouquet Garni restaurant in Luxembourg after their working lunch on Brexit. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Protesters outside the Luxembourg Ministry of State in Luxembourg, prior to a meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG - SEPTEMBER 16: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) poses with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson prior to a meeting at a restaurant on September 16, 2019 in Luxembourg. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is holding his first meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in search of a Brexit deal. (Photo by Francisco Seco - Pool/Getty Images)
Protesters outside the Luxembourg Ministry of State in Luxembourg, prior to a meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Protesters outside the Luxembourg Ministry of State in Luxembourg, prior to a meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Protestors hold placards as they look on outside the venue for talks between the British Prime Minister and EU Commission president in Luxembourg on September 16, 2019. - Six weeks before he is due to lead Britain out of the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Jean-Claude Juncker, insisting that a Brexit deal is possible. Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors hold placards as they look on outside the venue for talks between the British Prime Minister and EU Commission president in Luxembourg on September 16, 2019. - Six weeks before he is due to lead Britain out of the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Jean-Claude Juncker, insisting that a Brexit deal is possible. Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS/AFP/Getty Images)
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"The Prime Minister also reiterated that he would not request an extension and would take the UK out of the EU on October 31.

"The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis.

"It was agreed that talks should also take place at a political level between Michel Barnier and the Brexit Secretary, and conversations would also continue between president Juncker and the Prime Minister."

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