Boris Johnson fails to get breakthrough on Brexit following awkward meetings with Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Donald Tusk in New York
- The Prime Minister is in New York for three days for the UN general assembly
- He met with several EU leaders today in an attempt to get a Brexit breakthrough
- However, he failed to make any serious headway following a day of meetings
- Girlfriend Carrie Symonds is also staying in New York for her environmental job
Boris Johnson failed to achieve a 'New York breakthrough' on Brexit after a series of meetings with Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Donald Tusk.
The Prime Minister had downplayed his chances of securing a new deal ahead of meetings with key EU leaders during the United Nations General Assembly.
After leaving their bilateral meeting on Monday, Mr Tusk lamented that there had been 'no breakthrough' and that there is 'no time to lose' with the October 31 deadline looming.
The PM had told Mr Tusk that the UK needs 'to see movement and flexibility from the EU' in order to reach a deal, according to Downing Street.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancelor Angela Merkel in New York today
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets European Council President Donald Tusk at the United Nations Headquarters in New York today
An EU source said the meeting was 'sincere and open' but stressed that there were 'big gaps in substance'.
The source added: 'If there is to be a deal, there is little time left, although no formal deadline. The EU will need realistic, operational proposals in legal form. The UK non-papers do not meet the objectives of the backstop.'
Those 'non-papers' shared by the UK focus on the agri-food zone, customs issues and on manufactured goods.
After the meeting with Mr Tusk, the PM then met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said it is difficult to see how the impasse over the Northern Ireland backstop can be overcome.
Mr Barnier said the EU 'remains open to talks and progress', but that the UK side had yet to come forward with proposals which could offer the basis of a solution.
'Based on current UK thinking, it is difficult to see how we can arrive at a legally operative solution which fulfils all the objectives of the backstop,' he said, following talks in Berlin with German foreign minister Heiko Maas.
The Prime Minister made no breakthroughs on Brexit following a series of meetings with EU leaders
Mr Johnson has said that he wants Britain to leave the EU with a deal on October 31 - the current EU deadline - but is adamant that the backstop to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland must be scrapped.
Ahead of a meeting with the PM on Tuesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said any hard border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit would be the fault of the UK and not the EU.
His comments came after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that border checks will be an inevitable consequence of a no-deal Brexit.
On the flight to the States, the PM had downplayed his chances, telling reporters: 'There might be, but I don't wish to elevate excessively the belief that there will be a New York breakthrough.'
Boris Johnson met Pakistan PM Imran Khan today at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York
The PM also met New Zealand premier Jacinda Ardern at the summit in New York today
The PM also held talks with Pakistan PM Imran Khan, New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern and Belgium's Charles Michel at the prestigious gathering of the General Assembly this afternoon.
But the crucial meeting was the three-way discussions with the German Chancellor and French President, during which he outlined his plans to replace the Irish backstop.
Tory sources said earlier that the PM would also try to persuade them to make it clear that any new deal would have to be passed by October 31.
It is the first time Mr Johnson has been accompanied by girlfriend Carrie Symonds on a foreign trip - although she travelled separately to avoid burdening the taxpayer and is there on behalf of an environmental charity.
Angela Merkel arrives at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York ahead of the UN assembly - and Brexit talks with Boris Johnson
Mr Johnson will use his three-day trip to New York to hold Brexit discussions with several EU leaders, including Emmanuel Macron
She is thought to be staying in his hotel.
Ministers believe the move would prevent MPs kicking the can down the road again – and force them to finally choose between leaving the EU with a deal and departing without one.
What happens next in the Brexit crisis?
Here is how the coming weeks could pan out:
September 21-25: Labour conference in Brighton, PM at UN summit in New York.
Tomorrow: Supreme Court delivers judgement on claim prorogation of Parliament was illegal.
September 29-October 2: Tory conference takes place in Manchester, with Mr Johnson giving his first keynote speech as leader on the final day. This will be a crucial waypointer on how Brexit talks are going.
October 14: Unless it has already been recalled following the court battle, Parliament is due to return with the Queen's Speech - the day before Mr Johnson had hoped to hold a snap election.
October 17-18: A crunch EU summit in Brussels, where Mr Johnson has vowed he will try to get a Brexit deal despite Remainers 'wrecking' his negotiating position.
October 19: If there is no Brexit deal by this date Remainer legislation obliges the PM to beg the EU for an extension to avoid No Deal.
October 21: Decisive votes on the Queen's Speech, which could pave the way for a confidence vote.
October 31: The current deadline for the UK to leave the EU.
November/December: An election looks inevitable, but Labour is hinting it might push the date back towards Christmas to humiliate the PM.
It would potentially sidestep a controversial new law requiring Mr Johnson to seek another three-month extension to Britain's EU membership unless a deal has been approved by Parliament by October 19.
However, sources acknowledge that the ploy will only succeed if Mr Johnson can first persuade EU leaders to compromise on the Irish backstop.
Brussels is still insisting that Northern Ireland must remain in the EU customs zone – which is anathema to Mr Johnson and his DUP allies in Ulster.
One insider said: 'If there is going to be a deal then the EU is going to have to move on that.'
Mr Johnson will use his three-day trip to New York to hold Brexit discussions with EU President Donald Tusk, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Belgian leader Charles Michel.
He has been dogged by allegations over taking a businesswoman friend on official travel while London Mayor - repeatedly dodging questions about the situation from reporters accompanying him to the US.
Speaking on the flight to the US, the PM insisted 'a great deal of progress' had been made in the talks, although he sought to play down suggestions a breakthrough was imminent.
He said it was 'very encouraging' that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had said he was not wedded to the mechanisms of the backstop - intended to ensure there was no return of a hard border with the Republic.
Yesterday, Michael Gove underlined Government fears that MPs may force another Brexit delay.
Writing in The Sunday Times, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster warned that breaking the referendum promise would fuel support for populist readers on the Right and Left.
He said three years of Brexit wrangling had left public confidence in Westminster on a 'razor edge of peril', adding: 'If we make the wrong decisions, we will see faith in our democracy damaged. If we still find ourselves in the EU after October 31, having accepted we can only ever leave when the EU decides and on terms it dictates, we will see support for the Conservative Party collapse.'
Carrie Symonds (pictured with Mr Johnson at No10 earlier this month) is also in New York for her environmental work
The Prime Minister will meet world leaders such Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel at the summit
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his speech on Brexit on Wednesday
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab issued a public warning to the EU that the Government would not accept a deal which left Northern Ireland stuck in the customs union after Brexit.
The UK has proposed an all-Ireland agriculture zone for livestock and food, which could remove the need for border checks on 40 per cent of trade.
But ministers are unwilling to contemplate a deal that would require customs checks on other goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Mr Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show yesterday there 'couldn't be a Northern Ireland-only backstop in its entirety in the way it was proposed previously'.
Asked if the proposals for co-operation on agriculture could be widened to cover other areas, he said: 'The further you go, the more you risk the principle that there'll be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland – and that's democratically wrong.'
He pointed to an upbeat assessment by Jean-Claude Juncker last week in which the European Commission chief said the British proposals could provide the 'basis' for a deal.