UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he believes he can get a deal with the European Union within weeks.
“If we can make enough progress in the next few days, I intend to go to that crucial summit on Oct. 17, and finalise an agreement that will protect the interests of business and citizens on both sides of the Channel, and on both sides of the border in Ireland,” Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
Johnson is set to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at talks on Monday.
He on Sunday reiterated his intention to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal in a newspaper interview in which he likened himself to comic book character The Incredible Hulk.
Commenting on the bill that would require Johnson to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline if he can’t reach a deal, he said that while the fictional scientist Bruce Banner may be “bound in manacles” when he was angry he “explodes out of them” as Hulk.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” Johnson was quoted as saying by the Mail on Sunday. “Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31.”
Johnson’s comments suggest that he will try to find a way to bypass the law passed by parliament, which was voted through after 21 Conservative MPs rebelled against the government. The MPs were subsequently kicked out of the party.
One rebel, Sam Gyimah – a rising star in former PM Theresa May’s government – joined the Liberal Democrats on Saturday. Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has pledged to fight the next general election as the anti-Brexit party, with plans to revoke Article 50 altogether.
Johnson is due Monday to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss one of the main sticking points over a deal, namely the so-called “backstop”, which would require Britain to retain some EU rules in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
He said he was “very confident” that a solution could be found.
“There’s a very, very good conversation going on about how to address the issues of the Northern Irish border. A huge amount of progress is being made,” Johnson told the newspaper, without giving details.
But while the possibility of Johnson breaking the law over Brexit has provoked disquiet in parliament, it may not have hurt him in the polls. The most recent polling by Opinium for the Observer newspaper has the Conservatives rising from 35 to 37% over the past week.
However, a separate poll by ComRes for the Sunday Express put Conservative support at just 28%, down from 30% and only a shade ahead of Labour at 27%. ComRes said just 12% thought Britain’s parliament could be trusted to do the right thing for the country.
Johnson’s reference to the Hulk led to both analysis and mockery on social media Sunday, with some commentators pointing out that Bruce Banner’s alter-ego may not have been a valid comparison for the British leader.