EU trade commissioner says he believes ‘penny is finally dropping’ for Boris Johnson.
The EU is pinning its hopes on British negotiators reverting to the Northern Ireland-only backstop previously rejected by Theresa May as a threat to the constitutional integrity of the UK.
With Boris Johnson facing a choice between breaking his word and extending the UK’s membership of the EU beyond 31 October, or bringing back a tweaked deal for a last-gasp vote in parliament, officials and diplomats have expressed hope the prime minister will make a U-turn.
EU sources insisted there was no other approach that could work and the negotiations were otherwise doomed to hit a “zombie stage” given the likelihood of an imminent general election.
“We don’t know what mandate the prime minister has to propose something and obviously there is a strong division between the parliament and the government,” said Nathalie Loiseau, a former French minister for EU affairs.
It is hoped in Brussels that Johnson’s EU envoy, David Frost, will further pursue a Northern Ireland-only backstop during meetings with the European commission’s Brexit taskforce on Wednesday and Friday.
The newly nominated EU commissioner for trade, Phil Hogan, a former Irish minister, told the Irish Times he believed the “penny is finally dropping” in Johnson’s government over the lack of alternatives.