BORIS Johnson has played down the prospect of an imminent Brexit breakthrough, saying it would not be easy to persuade Brussels to shift its stance.

The Prime Minister, who held talks with Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron this week, said he was making progress but was “telling people not to hold their breath”.

READ MORE: Macron rejects Johnson’s plea to renegotiate Brexit deal

Johnson wants the backstop – the contingency plan to prevent a hard border in Ireland – removed from the Withdrawal Agreement thrashed out with the European Union by predecessor Theresa May.

He said the EU was very against the backstop and that persuading Brussels to change would “take some time”. The UK, he added, would have to prepare for the prospect of a No-Deal Brexit.

Johnson also said the “mood music” on his visits to Germany and France was “very good”, adding: “They could see that we want a deal, they can see the problems with the backstop.

“Clearly, Angela Merkel thinks that the solutions can be found within 30 days – actually what she meant was if you can do it in two years, you can certainly do it in 30 days. But I want to caution everybody, OK? Because this is not going to be a cinch, this is not going to be easy.”

He insisted there were “lots of ways” to achieve frictionless trade at the border in Northern Ireland.

“But to persuade our EU friends and partners, who are very, very, very hard over against it, will take some time,” said Johnson.

It comes as Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said it would be a “distraction” for the UK to nominate a new candidate for EU commissioner as they would be taking office on November 1, the day after the UK is set to leave the EU.

The National:

Barclay added: “We are leaving the EU on October 31. As a departing member state we will not be involved in the new Commission, so it would be a distraction to nominate a new commissioner.

“This is part of the UK’s ongoing preparations for Brexit, which allows us to focus on our future relationship with the EU while continuing to explore new opportunities with partners across the world.”

Furthermore, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, has written to the bloc to confirm that the UK will not be nominating a candidate for the 2019-2024 College of Commissioners.

Meanwhile, Johnson said delivering “hot buttered toast for the patients of this country” will help improve people’s experience of the NHS.

His remarks came as it was disclosed Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith will advise a government review into hospital food following the deaths of six people due to a listeria outbreak.