Brexit: Fresh EU talks set as Boris Johnson pledges push to avoid no-deal

Boris Johnson and his opponents have pledged to step up their efforts to prevent a no-deal Brexit, with the government announcing a new series of intensive talks between UK and EU officials next week.

Following a visit to Brussels by the Prime Minister’s top Brexit adviser David Frost, negotiating teams are set to meet twice a week through September.

But talks will unfold against the backdrop of unrest on the streets and opposition in parliament, with campaigners threatening sit-in protests and parliamentarians pledging to debate through the night to pass legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit.

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Meanwhile, a judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh will rule this morning on an emergency application by dozens of MPs trying to block the suspension of parliament.

Anti Brexit campaigner Gina Miller leaves Millbank in Westminster, London. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Amid a growing backlash against Mr Johnson’s decision to close parliament for five weeks, the government now faces legal challenges in London, Edinburgh and Belfast.

After Ruth Davidson’s resignation as Scottish Tory leader, Mr Johnson suffered a second blow as Lords whip Sir George Young became the first member of the government to quit over the decision to prorogue parliament, saying he was “very unhappy”.

The Prime Minister said fresh talks in Brussels showed he is still committed to getting a Brexit deal in the final remaining weeks.

“I have said right from my first day in office that we are ready to work in an energetic and determined way to get a deal done,” the Prime Minister said.

“While I have been encouraged with my discussions with EU leaders over recent weeks that there is a willingness to talk about alternatives to the anti-democratic backstop, it is now time for both sides to step up the tempo.

“The increase in meetings and discussions is necessary if we are to have a chance of agreeing a deal for when we leave on October 31st, no ifs no buts.”

Labour and opposition parties vowed to press ahead with attempts to block a no-deal Brexit using legislation.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: “It is going to be extremely difficult. That’s why the Government is disingenuous to say this is not about trying to stop us doing that.

“We will be seeking measures on Monday to try and have what is known as a Standing Order Section 24 debate.”

The parliamentary challenge facing the government continues to mount, with another Tory MP - the former minister Richard Harrington - saying he would vote to block a no-deal Brexit next week.

Another leading voice against no-deal, the former justice secretary David Gauke, warned that next week could be the only chance for MPs seeking to block a chaotic exit from the EU.

“It’s probably not in our interests to be very specific about what the proposals might be as to how we would do that,” Mr Gauke said.

“I think there are many of us who would be inclined to say that Parliament doesn’t need to take action for a while yet.

“But given the announcement that Parliament is only going to be sitting for a week next week and then really at the end of October by which point it will be too late for Parliament to do anything effective.

“Then I do think we have to look at what our options are next week.”

Laura Parker, the national coordinator of campaign group Momentum, urged its members to “protest, occupy and blockade” at demonstrations planned across the UK on Saturday.

“Eton educated millionaire Boris Johnson is stealing our democracy so he can sell off our NHS to big US corporations in a no deal, Trump first Brexit,” Ms Parker said.

“This is an establishment coup by a tiny, privileged elite who have been eroding our democracy for decades.

“Real power doesn’t sit with the Queen or in parliament. It’s with us, the people - and that’s why we need to take action.”

Tory MP Alex Clark was confronted by protesters outside his constituency office, and faced angry shouts as he insisted that “the actual concrete practical difference” of prorogation was small - although he admitted “the political implications are great”.

“I’ve made my position clear, what the implications of that are will be for the chief whip,” Mr Clark said.

Sources in the House of Lords were quoted saying they were prepared to sit through the night next week to ensure legislation is passed before prorogation takes effect.

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, who faced calls yesterday for a protest outside his home, hit back at critics, insisting the prorogation move was not intended to limit the time available for MPs to debate Brexit but will allow the Government to tackle other issues.

He said: “I think the outrage is phoney and it is created by people who don’t want us to leave the European Union and are trying very hard to overturn the referendum result and don’t want the benefits of leaving the European Union.”