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After battle with MPs, British PM seeks Brexit deal

AFP
London
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted on Tuesday he was working hard to strike a divorce deal with the EU, after he suspended parliament following a series of bruising defeats by MPs over his Brexit plan.
The day after meeting Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Johnson held talks with his Northern Irish allies in London -- all key players in the race to secure a deal before Britain leaves the European Union on October 31.
Johnson has faced huge opposition in the House of Commons to his threat to leave the bloc without agreeing exit terms with Brussels but lawmakers have also rejected his call for an early general election to resolve the impasse.
Before he suspended parliament early Tuesday, MPs rushed through legislation requiring Johnson to postpone Brexit by three months if he fails to secure a deal at an EU summit on October 17-18.
“We’re working very hard to get a deal. I think we will get a deal but if absolutely necessary we will come out with no deal,” Johnson said during a school visit on Tuesday.
He has previously said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit.
The Conservative leader took office in July promising to renegotiate the exit terms struck by his predecessor, Theresa May, which were rejected three times by MPs.
But the EU has so far refused, and accused London of failing to come up with any viable alternatives to the most controversial element, the so-called backstop plan to keep open the UK’s border with the Republic of Ireland.
Johnson met Tuesday with Arlene Foster, the leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which has propped up his government.
There is speculation that Johnson could be softening his demand to remove the backstop from the Brexit deal, although Downing Street denies this -- and the DUP would likely resist such a move.
It fears that efforts to keep open the land frontier between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to protect the peace process, could lead to a new sea border between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

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