Johnson vows to ‘step up the tempo’ of Brexit talks

Boris Johnson has said talks with the European Union will be stepped up in the coming weeks in a bid to secure a new Brexit deal.

UK negotiators will now meet their EU counterparts twice a week, a significant increase on the current rate.

The prime minister had previously suggested there would be little point to discussions until the EU accepted the needs for changes to the existing agreement.

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But writing overnight, Boris Johnson said he was “encouraged” by the reaction from EU leaders, adding that it was “now time for both sides to step up the tempo”.

Mr Johnson met with his European counterparts in Paris and Berlin last week and at the G7 Summit over the weekend.

Downing Street indicated the two sides remain some distance apart on key issues but said the talks would include discussions about the Irish backstop.

The ramping up of negotiations will be seen as an effort to quell concern among some in the party about the prime minister’s Brexit strategy.

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Conservative former ministers have said they are prepared to take action next week to stop a no-deal Brexit.

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Speaking to Sky News, Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke went further and said he “probably would” vote for Jeremy Corbyn to become a caretaker prime minister if it meant avoiding no deal.

In a further sign of a unified approach among critics of the government, six opposition parties have signed a joint statement calling for the suspension of parliament to be reversed and saying there is “no mandate” for no deal.

It comes as the Department for Transport said it will invest £30m in ports, road and rail links to help them get ready for Brexit.

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The money will come from a £2bn pot allocated by the Treasury earlier this year for additional Brexit preparations.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the money will “boost capacity and efficiency”.

Labour has said the amount is “nowhere near enough” given the scale of the challenge faced by ports after Brexit.

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