BORIS Johnson has promised to deliver a “lot of oomph” in his efforts to get the EU to scrap the Irish backstop as the Brexit process remained deadlocked after Brussels firmly rejected his demand for a “backstop-ectomy”.

The Prime Minister, in broadcast interviews ahead of his meetings with Germany’s Angela Merkel in Berlin today and France’s Emmanuel Macron in Paris tomorrow, said: “At the moment it is absolutely true our friends and partners are a bit negative.

“I saw what Donald Tusk had to say and it wasn’t redolent of a sense of optimism. But we will get there. There is a real sense now that something needs to be done with this backstop. We can’t get it through Parliament as it is. So I’m going to go at it with a lot of oomph, as you would expect, and I hope we will be making some progress in the course of the next few weeks.”

  • READ MORE: Donald Tusk rejects Boris Johnson's call to scrap backstop and accuses PM of running risk of establishing hard Irish border

Mr Johnson claimed there was a “big opportunity now for everybody to come together” to remove the backstop and suggested in the course of the negotiations on a trade deal UK ministers would bring forward “all the ways in which we can maintain frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border”.

He again criticised Remainer MPs for attempting to block a no-deal outcome, stressing how as long as the EU27 believed they could succeed, it would not move on its Brexit red lines. “So, it’s going to take a bit of patience,” he admitted.

His remarks came as the UK Government announced from September 1 it would empty-chair most EU meetings, attending only those where the UK had a "significant national interest" such as security.

Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, tweeted: "Sending officials to meetings that don't affect us is not the best use of their time. From September 1 we'll only go to meetings that are vital to our interests; freeing our people to focus on our future relationships."

The Brexit department stressed the move was "not intended in any way to frustrate the functioning of the EU".

But Tom Brake for the Liberal Democrats accused the Government of shooting itself in the foot. “We're now prematurely leaving the decision-making table. Brexit sounds the death-knell for British influence abroad,” he said.

Labour’s Martin Whitfield on behalf of the People’s Vote campaign branded the Government decision the “great flounce”. The East Lothian MP added: “It is a pitiful retreat from our position at the heart of European decision-making.”

On Monday night, the PM fired off his four-page letter to Mr Tusk, outlining his opposition to the Irish backstop and demanding its removal. He made clear he could not support any withdrawal agreement that "locks the UK, potentially indefinitely, into an international treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland".

The European Council President took to social media to deliver a concise but firm rejection, tweeting: “The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found.

"Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it," added Mr Tusk.

Downing St’s initial response appeared to signal that the Government was doubling down on its own position. Noting how it would “never place infrastructure, checks, or controls at the border,” a spokesman declared: “But it is clear that unless the Withdrawal Agreement is reopened and the backstop abolished there is no prospect of a deal.”

The European Commission swung swiftly behind the Council President, stressing how Mr Johnson’s letter did “not provide a legal operational solution to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland".

However, Mrs Merkel, during a visit to Iceland, offered a more conciliatory tone, saying the EU was ready to find a solution to the backstop impasse.

“The moment we have a practical arrangement on how to preserve the Good Friday Agreement and at the same time define the borders of the internal market, we would not need the backstop anymore.

“This means we would naturally think about practical solutions…The EU is ready to find a solution.”

Intriguingly, it was reported that the Chancellor had suggested this would not require the Withdrawal Agreement to be re-opened but it was instead a question for the political declaration on future relations.

Meanwhile at home, party leaders engaged in a deal of political sniping:

*Mr Johnson accused Mr Corbyn of wanting to “cancel the referendum and argue about Brexit for years” while he was committed to getting Britain out of the EU by October 31;

*Mr Corbyn called on the PM to "wise up, stop the nonsense with October 31 and start talking seriously";

*the SNP's Ian Blackford derided Mr Johnson for making "impossible demands and irresponsible grandstanding" in his Tusk letter and

*Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, tweeted: "Corbyn didn't fight to Remain in 2016 and he won't fight for Remain now. He wants to deliver a Labour Brexit because he is a Brexiteer."