Brexit on the menu
Johnson to meet EU president Juncker for ‘working lunch’
Jean Claude Juncker will meet the PM for lunch
Boris Johnson will meet the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday for the first time since he became Prime Minister.
The meeting has been described as a “working lunch” and Downing Street has played down expectations of any breakthrough in the Brexit impasse. However, Brexit will be the main, or only, item on the menu.
Mr Johnson will also meet his Luxembourg counterpart Xavier Bettel.
An EU Commission spokeswoman said, “As president Juncker has said from the beginning, he was looking forward to working constructively with prime minister Johnson and it’s just that they haven’t managed to meet yet.
“The reason the lunch is taking place in Luxembourg is that the president has to get to Strasbourg for plenary week in the European Parliament.
“Mr Johnson agreed to come to Luxembourg to facilitate this happening.”
The meeting follows comments from the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier that Brussels is awaiting “concrete, legally operational proposals” from the British government.
Mr Johnson said he “won’t be deterred by anybody” from leaving the EU on 31 October and that he was “cautiously optimistic” of getting a Brexit deal. The UK would leave by the deadline “whatever happens”, he said.
Mr Johnson, speaking in the north of England, said: “We are working incredibly hard to get a deal. There is the rough shape of the deal to be done.
“I have been to talk to various other EU leaders, particularly in Germany, in France and in Ireland, where we made a good deal of progress.
“I’m seeing [Mr Juncker and Mr Barnier] on Monday and we will talk about the ideas that we’ve been working on and we will see where we get.”
He added: “I would say I’m cautiously optimistic.”
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he did not share “reasons to be optimistic” over getting a deal.
Despite few signs of substantial developments in the talks the pound has hit its highest level against the dollar since July amid hopes that a no-deal Brexit can be avoided.
Sterling jumped more than 1% to more than $1.24 against the dollar, its highest level in seven weeks and against the euro it was up 0.7% at over €1.12.
Mr Johnson found himself heckled by members of the public during a visit to South Yorkshire. One man in Rotherham said he should have been dealing with Brexit while a woman in Doncaster said the town had suffered from his austerity policies.
However, a number of local also shook his hand and asked for selfies in a sign of how Brexit was now dividing voters rather than party loyalties.
JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin said bar sales will be soaring on 31 October if Britain leaves the EU as scheduled as people flock to pubs to celebrate Brexit day.
The group’s chairman and founder – a prominent and outspoken Brexit campaigner – brushed aside fears over plunging consumer spending in the event of a no-deal Brexit and said Britons would instead come flocking to his pubs to at least mark the end of a long process.
He told PA Media: “I think sales will jump dramatically in our pubs if we leave the EU – even if we leave the EU without a deal on October 31.
Sales were up at Wetherspoon
“People will be so pleased that we’ve left and I think even people who don’t want to leave will think ‘thank god we’ve left and can talk about something else’.”
Wetherspoon unveiled annual results showing pub trade holding up. Like-for-like sales rose 6.8% over the year to 28 July.
Mr Martin insisted there would be no hit to sales if the UK quit the EU without a deal. He said: “People will be break-dancing in the streets.”
He added: “It will make the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977 look like a vicar’s tea party.”