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Exclusive: EU contests Johnson letter, says backstop only way to keep Irish border open - document

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks as he meets with health professionals during his visit to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, Britain, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Pool

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union “contests” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for the Brexit backstop to be dropped and regrets his bid to scrap a “necessary, legally operative solution” to avoid erecting an Irish border, a document seen by Reuters says.

The note sets out the agreed joint position of the 27 EU states staying on together after Brexit, after the bloc’s top institutions in Brussels had already rebuffed Johnson’s push to change Britain’s divorce terms.

“The backstop is a necessary, legally operative solution in the Withdrawal Agreement to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland,” said the note, issued by the European Council, which represents all the member states in Brussels.

“The EU regrets that the new United Kingdom government wants to replace a legally operative solution with a commitment to try to find a solution - yet to be found - by the end of the transition period.”

The note also said the EU regretted that London had not provided “any concrete proposals” for alternatives to the backstop, and that parts of Johnson’s letter were “misleading”.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by John Chalmers and Kevin Liffey