In comments likely to be welcomed by Boris Johnson’s government, the European Commission President told Sky News that “we can have a deal” and that he didn’t have an “emotional relationship to the backstop”.
The ‘backstop’ is the plan to ensure the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains open after Brexit, and has been the major stumbling block to getting parliament’s consent for a withdrawal agreement.
Juncker met with Johnson in Luxembourg for Brexit discussions on Monday, before the prime minister headed for his ill-fated meeting with his Luxembourg counterpart Xavier Bettel.
Juncker said the meeting was “rather positive” but didn’t know if the chances of a deal were more than 50-50.
He said: “I’m doing everything to have a deal because I don’t like the idea of no deal because this would have catastrophic consequences.
“It’s better for Britain and for the European Union to have an organised deal.”
On the backstop, he said: “As far as the so-called alternative arrangements are concerned, allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objectives of the backstop ... if the results are there, I don’t care about the instrument.”
The prime minister is set to produce formal written proposals to resolve the Brexit deadlock, and a UK government spokesman said today that proposals would be put forward “when we are ready” and when Brussels is willing to “engage constructively on them”.
Number 10 also confirmed that the UK had now shared, in written form, a series of “confidential technical non-papers” which reflect the ideas the UK has been putting forward.
Previously documents had been shown to Brussels officials but then taken back at the end of meetings for fear they would be leaked.
But a “non-paper” is not a formal government position and falls far short of what has been demanded by Brussels.