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A Brexit deal is now 'touch and go', says Boris Johnson

The second day of the G7 summit takes place today.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives in Biarritz, France, for the annual G7 summit yesterday
Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives in Biarritz, France, for the annual G7 summit yesterday
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Aug 25th 2019, 12:56 PM

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has said the chances of a Brexit deal with the EU are now “touch and go”.

Speaking to the BBC at the G7 summit in France, Johnson said the final outcome “all depends on our EU friends and partners”.

“I think it’s going to be touch and go. But the important thing is to get ready to come out without a deal”.

Johnson, who has consistently said the UK will leave the EU on 31 October, is set to seek concessions from the EU on Brexit and meet EU Council President Donald Tusk as the G7 continues today.

The meeting on the margins of the summit will follow a verbal clash between the pair yesterday, when Tusk warned Johnson not to go down in history as “Mr No-Deal”.

Johnson today told the BBC: “I think in the last few days there has been a dawning realisation in Brussels and other European capitals what the shape of the problem is for the UK.”

He added that he was an “optimist” and that he thought the EU understands there is an “opportunity to do a deal”.

Separately, Johnson told Sky News the chances of a Brexit deal are “improving” for the UK after he said it will only pay €9 billion instead of the €41.8 billion liability agreed by his predecessor Theresa May under a no-deal Brexit scenario.

“I think in the last few days we’ve had quite a lot of success in landing some messages about what the UK can do and can’t do,” Johnson said.

“Let’s be clear, I think at the moment there’s a reasonable chance that we’ll get a deal.

‘Considerable barriers’

Johnson has  attempted to distance himself from Trump in the lead up to G7 talks, after previously facing accusations of being too cosy with the American leader.

He urged Trump to remove the “considerable barriers” for UK companies seeking to export to the American market, saying they risked impeding a free-trade deal after Brexit.

Johnson pointed to a string of UK products – including shower trays and pork pies – that he said were not allowed on the American market.

“We intend to seize those opportunities but they are going to require our American friends to compromise and to open up their approach, because currently there are too many restrictions,” he said.

In another provocative comment, he said that US tech giants like Facebook and Google should be taxed “fairly and properly” on their revenues.

However, the first face-to-face talks between the pair saw the US President back him Johnson as the “right man” to deliver Brexit for Britain.

Asked what his advice was for Brexit, Trump replied: “He [Johnson] needs no advice, he is the right man for the job.”

“I’ve been saying that for a long time,” added Trump, noting that such comments had not made his predecessor Theresa May happy while she was still in office up to July.

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Diplomatic battlefield

G7 summits, which are attended by the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, were once a meeting of like-minded allies, but have become a diplomatic battlefield under Trump.

Host President Emmanuel Macron wants to make the three-day meeting of the group of seven nations, which started yesterday, an example for international forums.

In an attempt to break the ice, he treated Trump to an unscheduled lunch as soon as he arrived on Air Force One.

Speaking to reporters in English, Macron called Trump “a very special guest” and aides later said that the two men had found some common ground, notably on the Iran nuclear crisis.

G7 chiefs are also hoping to soothe tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme and persuade Trump to ease his policy of “maximum pressure”, including lifting sanctions on Iranian oil sales to China and India.

Macron is also pushing for action against fires in the Amazon rainforest, despite Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s angry response to what he sees as outside interference.

In a break from previous meetings of the group, there will be no final statement based on late night talks in the southern town of Biarritz.

13,000 police are on duty in the town, where an anti-capitalism demonstration in nearby Bayonne yesterday saw several hundred people attempt to charge police barricades before being repelled with water cannons and tear gas.

 With reporting from - © AFP 2019

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