Tory MP optimistic about Boris Johnson getting a Brexit deal because of 'body language'

PUBLISHED: 10:16 23 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:27 23 August 2019

Tobias Ellwood has said he feels more optimistic about getting a Brexit deal because of

Tobias Ellwood has said he feels more optimistic about getting a Brexit deal because of "a body language". Picture: BBC Newsnight

BBC Newsnight

A Tory former minister has gone on TV to say that he feels more optimistic about getting a deal with the EU because of "body language" during Boris Johnson's visit to EU heads of state.

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Tobias Ellwood, who appeared on BBC's Newsnight and was asked by presenter Mark Urban what is "new" in the Brexit negotiations, also said that there was a "sense of vigour" after Boris Johnson met EU leaders.

The prime minister met Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel on this visit in attempts to persuade heads of the 27 states to agree to drop the Irish backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement.

But the French premier stayed firm, saying the backstop is "indispensable".

Irish backstop is "indispensable", Emmanuel Macron tells Boris Johnson

Meanwhile, in a move hailed as a victorious breakthrough by the pro-Brexit press, Merkel said that a solution to the Irish border question conceivably be found in either the next two years, or the next 30 days. "Why not?" she said.

However, neither leader has moved in their position.

But the Bournemouth East MP was ready to move mountains to persuade the Newsnight audience that something significant had changed.

He said: "We saw here, both in Berlin and indeed in Paris, a can-do attitude, a body language, a new rapport developing."

The prime minister's body language did indeed raise a smile, when he jokingly pretended to put his feet up on the table during talks with Macron at the Elysée palace.

Ellwood continued: "I am more optimistic about us securing a deal now than I ever have been since March 2019, and we have been given that window, that critical window of 30 days to provide what is the detailed micro concern about the backstop itself, and that is what we have got to prove, and that is what the prime minister will be doing."

"But there doesn't seem to be anything new in this," mused Urban, adding that all the methods Johnson had suggested to prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland had been talked about before.

Undeterred, Ellwood said it is a "gamechanger" because he thought Merkel and Macron had indicated willingness to be "flexible".

He also did not believe that all the details of an orderly exit, such as citizens' rights and shared European arrest warrants, would be achievable within 30 days, and that this time period should be focused on resolving the backstop.

He added: "We have a determined prime minister.

"Whatever you say about the prime minister, there is a sense of vigour, determination, and a focus that we didn't have under the last prime minister, and that is why I am cautiously more optimistic."

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