Boris Johnson has promised to “up the tempo” in a renewed effort to secure a deal with the European Union.
Amid a furious backlash from opponents of a no-deal Brexit against his decision to suspend Parliament next month, Johnson said: “I have said right from my first day in office that we are ready to work in an energetic and determined way to get a deal done.
“While I have been encouraged with my discussions with EU leaders over recent weeks that there is a willingness to talk about alternatives to the anti-democratic backstop, it is now time for both sides to step up the tempo.”
The Daily Mail says the statement comes “amid rising hopes of a Brexit breakthrough”.
The government continues to insist that a new deal will not be agreed unless the backstop, which aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, is removed from the withdrawal agreement.
However, the EU said it expected the UK to come up with “concrete proposals” on the backstop. A European Commission spokesperson said its “doors remain open” and insisted it had “demonstrated our willingness to work 24/7 throughout this long process”.
Downing Street admitted the two sides “remain some distance apart on key issues” but added they were “willing to work hard to find a way through”.
After Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, met officials in Brussels this week it was agreed that the UK’s Brexit negotiators will now meet their EU counterparts twice a week in the run up to a crucial summit on October 17-18.
Opposition to Johnson’s approach to Brexit is intensifying. Six opposition parties have signed a joint statement calling for the suspension of parliament to be reversed and saying there is “no mandate” for no deal.
Former Tory ministers have said they are even prepared to take action next week to stop a no-deal Brexit. Conservative grandee Kenneth Clarke told Sky News he “probably would” vote for Jeremy Corbyn to become a caretaker prime minister if it meant avoiding no deal.
The Financial Times says the timing of PM’s renewed negotiations push “seeks to avert defeat” by rebel MPs.
The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg says we will know “within days” whether the MPs who are “implacably opposed to leaving the EU without a deal” can prevent it from happening.