The Prime Minister arrived back in Downing Street seemingly elated after a meeting with Emmanuel Macron, in which the French President agreed to an amendment to the withdrawal agreement. Stephen Barclay, The Brexit Secretary, and his officials will now be ordered to “turbocharge” work on how to find an alternative way around the Northern Ireland backstop. A 270-page report is expected to focus on examining proposals, drawn up by Greg Hands, the former Tory minister and the now Culture Secretary, Nicky Morgan. It is understood that officials will be expected to update David Frost, the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser, on the progress being made during his meetings with European leaders after the G7 summit this weekend.
And, following Mr Johnson’s extended talks with European heads at the G7, he is expected to engage in a series of phone calls and further meetings with Mr Macron and Angela Merkel to brief them on the plans.
The work on the backstop will add a new impetus to reopen negotiations before the European Council summit in October, where Mr Johnson will hope to secure a new deal.
Mr Johnson held meetings with Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel this week in order to clear the waters about the UK’s exit, and said the report could be a blueprint to unpick the crisis.
In it, suggestions have been made to include checks on livestock and crops away from the border, trusted trader schemes and electronic clearance checks.
The reaction to the report has been largely positive, with several sources expressing their excitement and trust in the Brexit plans to come.
One source said: “Those of us who have been involved in the report are waiting to see how it will be turbocharged, how the 30-day deadline is going to be met given that we have already done a lot of the work.”
A Whitehall source described the report as a “proper piece of work”, adding: “The people who are behind it are sensible people.
“The content of the report is well known; it is of great interest to the Government.”
On Thursday Mr Macron eased his dogmatic stance on Brexit and said for the first time that the Withdrawal Agreement could be amended.
He said: “If there are things within the framework… that can be adapted, and conform to the two objectives that I cited: stability in Ireland and the integrity of the single market, then we must find them in the coming month.”
He added: “Within the context of past negotiations, we should be able to do some work.”
Mr Macron said he was “confident” that in working together with the UK, an arrangement would be found within 30 days – the challenge set by Mrs Merkel.