EU chief claims Boris Johnson ‘only recently realised full meaning of single market’

Boris Johnson is said to have "slumped in his chair" when the reality of how difficult it will be to strike a Brexit deal dawned on him.

At a lunch in Luxembourg with EU officials on Tuesday, the Prime Minister is said for the first time to have "understood the meaning of the single market".

The claims were reportedly made by European Council president Jean-Claude Juncker, according to the Financial Times.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, speaks with the media as he shakes hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson prior to a meeting at a restaurant in Luxembourg, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was holding his first meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday in search of a longshot Brexit deal. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)One official said Mr Johnson had a "penny dropping" moment when he was told that replacing the Irish backstop would not prevent customs checks that cross the border with Ireland.

A Number 10 official described the descriptions of what occurred at the lunch as "nonsense".

In or out of the single market?

Despite his insistence on a "clean break" with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Johnson has previously insisted he is in favour of the single market.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, poses with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson prior to a meeting at a restaurant in Luxembourg, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was holding his first meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday in search of a longshot Brexit deal. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, Pool)A clip of a speech that went viral earlier this year saw Mr Johnson state: "We will remain a paid, valued, participating member of the single market. Under no circumstances in my view will a British government adjust that position."

Speaking before the EU referendum, Mr Johnson also stated: "I would vote to stay in the single market. I'm in favour of the single market."

He added to Sky News: "I'm in favour of the single market. I want us to be able to trade freely with our European friends and partners."

Irish backstop alternative

Britain's Brexit negotiator, David Frost, has proposed an alternative to the Irish backstop that would see common rules for checking animals and animal products established across the whole island of Ireland.

The system of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on agricultural products were hoped to prove acceptable to Ireland but Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said they only account for around 30% of border checks.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator has said despite the UK making clear what its preferred choice for the backstop alternative was, the two sides shouldn't "pretend to be negotiating" if there was no real progress.

He added: "That is not enough to move towards achieving a solution. We need a legally operative solution in the withdrawal agreement which fully responds to each one of the problems."

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, right, addresses a media conference next to an empty lectern intended for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a meeting at the prime ministers office in Luxembourg, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Empty podium

Mr Johnson was forced to scrap his planned speech alongside his counterpart in Luxembourg following the lunch meeting because the PM feared being drowned out by the heckles of pro-EU demonstrators.

Instead his lectern was left empty by Xavier Bettelwho ridiculed the PM and stuck the boot in.

Mr Johnson had already been greeted with cries of "Go home Boris" and "stop Brexit" when he left his two-hour lunch with Mr Juncker earlier in the day.

The PM then headed to the Ministry of State in Luxembourg City where he was again met by a noisy chorus, including chants of "bog off Boris" and "tell the truth".

Prorogue appeals

Mr Johnson is set to defend his controversial decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks at the UK's highest court today.

Lawyers representing the PM will argue that his advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was lawful and that, in any event, the court cannot interfere in political matters.

The Supreme Court in London is hearing historic appeals from two separate challenges brought in England and Scotland to the prorogation of Parliament.

Mr Johnson says the five-week suspension is to allow the Government to set out a new legislative agenda in a Queen's Speech when MPs return to Parliament on October 14.

But those who brought legal challenges against the Prime Minister's decision argue the prorogation is designed to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of the UK's impending exit from the EU on October 31.

- This article first appeared on Yahoo

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