Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, meets with Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings in Dublin, Monday Sept. 9, 2019. Boris Johnson is to meet with Leo Varadkar in search of a compromise on the simmering Brexit crisis. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

UK's Johnson tells Irish leader Brexit deal can be reached

September 09, 2019 - 5:33 am

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced optimism Monday that a new Brexit deal can be reached so Britain leaves the European Union by Oct. 31.

Speaking alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Johnson said a deal on the Irish border question can be secured in time to enable a smooth British departure from the EU by the scheduled Brexit date.

He said a "no-deal" departure from the European Union would represent a "failure of statecraft" and that all sides would bear a responsibility for that.

Varadkar also said ahead of a meeting with Johnson that Britain has not produced any realistic alternatives to the controversial "backstop" agreement reached by Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May.

Opposition to the backstop was a key reason why Britain's Parliament rejected May's Brexit deal with the EU on three occasions earlier this year.

The backstop is intended to make sure that no hard border is put up between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

Varadkar said a "no-deal" departure would cause severe economic problems for Ireland now that border checks have been eliminated for an extended period of time.

The Irish leader says more negotiations are needed and that the Good Friday peace agreement, which states that no hard border is reimposed on the island of Ireland, must be respected.

The Dublin meeting marks the first time the two leaders have met since Johnson took power in July.

Varadkar has said he does not expect a breakthrough in the impasse over how the Irish border will be handled once Britain leaves the European Union.

Johnson plans to press a rebellious Parliament later Monday to back his plan for an early election, but opposition parties have said they will vote the measure down. They want to make sure a "no-deal" departure is blocked before agreeing to an election.

A new bill that seeks to force Johnson to seek a Brexit delay before the Oct. 31 deadline is set to become law on Monday.

Johnson has said he will not seek a delay. His government is studying the bill for possible loopholes that might allow a legal challenge.

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