BERLIN -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is starting his high-stakes European tour Wednesday by meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as he seeks to persuade the European Union to reopen Brexit talks.
The meeting comes as positions harden on both sides of the English Channel, hurtling Britain toward a no-deal exit.
Johnson's office said "there's no prospect of a deal" unless the EU reopens the exit agreement to remove controversial language around the so-called "backstop," an insurance policy of sorts that is designed to prevent the return to border checks on the Irish border. The EU has refused to reopen talks.
"I think it's a bit paradoxical that the EU side is talking about us putting up all the barriers. We've made it clear 1,000 times we don't want to see any checks on the Northern Irish frontier at all," Johnson told ITV. "By contrast, it is the EU who currently claim that the single market and the plurality of the single market require them to have such checks."
Johnson demanded late Monday that the EU re-open Brexit negotiations, citing the backstop as being undemocratic. European Council chief Donald Tusk responded with a ringing defense of the EU's actions.
"Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support reestablishing a border," Tusk tweeted Tuesday. "Even if they do not admit it."
Merkel sounded more diplomatic, but stuck unwaveringly to the EU line on substance. The German leader said the remaining 27 EU countries are willing to find such a solution but don't want to reopen the carefully negotiated Brexit deal agreed last year.
Johnson goes on to Paris on Thursday to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron. His trips should culminate in more talks at a summit of G-7 leaders this weekend in Biarritz, France, including U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump offered Johnson support Tuesday, tweeting that the EU was driving a "tough bargain" with the U.K. and that Johnson was the "right person in charge."
Kirka reported from London.