BORIS Johnson was asked if he understood what was at stake in Ireland after failing to visit the border and people being found “dead in ditches” when he appeared before journalists in Dublin yesterday.

The Prime Minister was also pressed on whether he had any new alternative proposals to the backstop to put to the EU and whether he would continue to be “held ransom by the DUP”.

He evaded the Irish Independent’s question on his “dead in ditches” comment but said “everybody in the UK understood the sensitivity of the border” and that the UK would make sure “there would be no checks at the border”.

Johnson said he wants a Brexit deal by October 18 and said a No-Deal Brexit would be a failure the British and Irish governments would be responsible for.

Ahead of the meeting in Dublin with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, he insisted a Brexit deal was still possible by the EU summit in October.

“I think what the British people want us to do is to deliver a deal and to get on and take us out on October 31st.”

The meeting was later described in a joint statement from the two governments as “positive and constructive”.

The Taoiseach told Johnson protecting peace on the island of Ireland was one of his top priorities.

“The people of this island, North and South, need to know that their livelihoods, their security and their sense of identity will not be put at risk as a consequence of a hard Brexit,” he said.

“The stakes are high. Avoiding the return of a hard border on this island and protecting our place in the single market are the Irish Government’s priorities in all circumstances. We must protect peace on the island and the burgeoning success of the all-island economy.

“This is why the backstop continues to be a critical component of the withdrawal agreement, unless and until an alternative is found,” Varadkar said.

Speaking before it was confirmed that parliament would be suspended later after yesterday’s vote on holding an early General Election, Johnson said he was “absolutely undaunted by whatever may take place in parliament”.

Johnson said he was bringing ideas on ways to resolve the backstop issue but stressed a breakthrough was unlikely to happen immediately.

“I have one message that I want to land with you today, Leo, that is I want to find a deal, I want to get a deal,” Johnson said. “Like you I’ve looked carefully at No-Deal, I’ve assessed its consequences both for our country and yours.

One of the ideas being considered is a Northern Ireland-only backstop, an all-island regulatory regime which could see Northern Ireland diverging from the rest of the UK. This option has been is been raised by Johnson.

Varadkar said the backstop was a critical component of the withdrawal agreement, unless alternatives are found. He said no alternatives have yet been received but added he was confident the two leaders could find some common ground.

“We both agree we have much to discuss, we accept the democratic and sovereign decisions to leave the EU,” Varadkar said. “However, in my view, the story of Brexit won’t end if the UK leaves the EU on October 31st or January 31st. There is no such thing as a clean break.” He added: “We all have to deal with issues like tariffs and state aid, ratified by 28 governments”. He said Ireland was “open to all alternatives legally workable but we have not received such to date”.