Boris Johnson's strategy still seems unreadable

The meeting between the British Prime Minister and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday does not seem to have helped to unblock the situation.

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Boris Johnson (left) shakes hands with Jean-Claude Juncker (right), before their meeting, in Luxembourg, on September 16th.
Boris Johnson (left) shakes hands with Jean-Claude Juncker (right), before their meeting, in Luxembourg, on September 16th. FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS / AFP

They had not met since Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May at 10 Downing Street. Finally, while London and Brussels must reach an agreement before October 31 if they want to avoid an exit from the United Kingdom of the European Union (EU) without agreement (or a umpteenth postponement of divorce), the British Prime Minister has asked to meet Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Commission.

On Monday, September 16th, the two men shared their lunch – organic calf egg followed by a yellow place – in a restaurant in Luxembourg. Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator for the Twenty-Seven, and Stephen Barclay, the British secretary, were also around the table.

It is unclear whether the two leaders have learned to appreciate each other – Mr Juncker's entourage has described"Friendly" the meeting, when Mr. Johnson's said it "Constructive" – but, listening to their statements at its end, it does not seem that this meeting has helped to unblock the situation.

"Yes, we are ready for an agreement", launched the British Prime Minister, inviting Europe to 'Move'. There is no "No proposal on the table", for its part commented laconically the Commission, thus giving a radically different interpretation of the progress of the file.

Intensify negotiations

In any case, the two parties agreed to intensify the negotiations at 45 days from the deadline of 31 October. These should now be held at a daily pace – not two days a week – and not just at a technical level, but under the aegis of MM. Barnier and Barclay.

The Commission demands that London present alternative solutions to the agreement that has been negotiated and that the UK Parliament has rejected three times. At issue is the "backstop", which must prevent the return of a physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the crown, and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, and therefore to respect the Good Friday Agreements, while keeping the United Kingdom in a "Single customs territory". Unacceptable for Johnson, who wants his country to be able to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with anyone he or she wants.


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