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Brexit

Johnson to hold Brexit talks with Juncker

Jon Super/PA Wire

By Gavin Cordon and, Sam Blewett, PA Political Staff

Boris Johnson is to hold talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as he continues his efforts to find a new Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister will travel to Luxembourg on Monday for his first meeting with Mr Juncker since entering Number 10 in July, Downing Street said.

Number 10 sources played down the prospect of an imminent breakthrough however, insisting there was still "a long way to go".

Earlier, Irish premier Leo Varadkar warned that the gap between the two sides on the crucial issue of the Northern Ireland backstop was still "very wide".

"We have always said we would be willing to look at alternative arrangements, but what we're seeing falls far short," Mr Varadkar told RTE radio.

"We are exploring what is possible. The gap is very wide but we will fight for and work for a deal until the last moment, but not at any cost."

Mr Johnson's meeting with Mr Juncker follows talks with other key EU players including Mr Varadkar, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

A European Commission spokeswoman said Mr Juncker was "looking forward to working constructively" with the Prime Minister.

She said the talks, over a working lunch, would be held at a "neutral location" rather than the British Embassy or a commission venue.

Mr Juncker will then address the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday on the progress in the negotiations.

"By common accord they agreed to meet in Luxembourg on Monday," the spokeswoman told a briefing in Brussels.

"They have been trying to arrange a meeting for a while now. They've already spoken on the phone, so I think it's the willingness that comes from both sides."