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Boris Johnson prepares to submit new Brexit plan as leaked proposal is described as 'non-starter'

  • Hopes of deal fade as EU leaders now 'wondering about extension' - Hogan
  • Boris Johnson's border idea would see customs posts on both sides of border
  • Checks would be 8-15km from border crossings
  • Proposals 'not credible' - government spokesman
  • 'No point of Brexit if you stay in Customs Union' - Johnson

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Reuters

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Reuters

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will know within days if a Brexit deal is possible, as he prepares to table a proposal to the EU.

The Prime Minister's formal proposals are due to be submitted to Brussels later this week and Mr Johnson said it would soon become apparent if there is "no way of getting it over the line from their point of view".

Mr Johnson urged leaders in Brussels, Dublin and Berlin to work with him as the "rubber hits the road" on efforts to strike a deal ahead of the October 31 scheduled Brexit date.

His comments come after latest idea put forward by the UK, which is the creation of customs posts on both sides of the Border.

The checks would be eight to 15km back from the actual Border crossing - but would still not match the key aim of the backstop, which is the avoidance of physical infrastructure.

Tracking devices would be used to monitor vehicles and goods as they cross from the UK into the EU's single market and visa versa.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has described the proposal as a "non starter".

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European Trade Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan speaks at his hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

European Trade Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan speaks at his hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

REUTERS

European Trade Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan speaks at his hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

"Time the EU had a serious proposal from the UK Govt if a Brexit deal is to be achievable in October. NI and IRE deserves better," he tweeted.

But Mr Johnson said those were preliminary ideas that had been floated rather than the formal proposals which are expected to be set out later this week after the Tory conference finishes on Wednesday.

"They are not talking about the proposals we are going to be tabling, they are talking about stuff that went in previously," he told the BBC.

"But clearly this is the moment when the rubber hits the road.

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Applause: Boris Johnson with Home Secretary Priti Patel (right) at the Conservative conference. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Applause: Boris Johnson with Home Secretary Priti Patel (right) at the Conservative conference. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

PA

Applause: Boris Johnson with Home Secretary Priti Patel (right) at the Conservative conference. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

"This is when the hard yards really are in the course of the negotiations."

EU leaders are now "wondering when is the next extension" to Brexit, Commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

In a clear indication that hopes of a breakthrough have evaporated, Mr Hogan said the UK has "10 days to try and do a deal".

"It doesn't always happen that quickly around here," he said.

Speaking after a three-hour hearing to assess whether he is fit to be the new trade commissioner, Mr Hogan said the EU has still not received "proposals of any meaningful extent from the UK side".

As a result he said the legislation passed by the UK means an extension is now the way forward.

Mr Johnson has said he will not delay Brexit beyond October 31 but also claims he will not ignore what he calls the "Surrender Act", which requires him not to leave without a deal.

The British Prime Minister today brushed away criticism of leaked plans to manage the Irish border after Brexit, saying comments from Brussels and Dublin were not aimed at Britain's final proposals.

"As far as I can make out from what I've seen from the response from Brussels and I think Dublin, they're not talking about the proposals that we're actually going to be taking, they're talking about some stuff that went in previously," Johnson told the BBC.

Sources in Brussels told Independent.ie the proposals being put forward by the UK side as alternatives to the backstop were still "nowhere near" what was required.

Mr Johnson's government has proposed a twin approach to customs checks.

According to reports, one version would see traders make a customs declaration on both sides of the Border. The second option is for exporters and importers to register in advance and pay a guarantee for customs duty, excise and VAT.

A Government spokesman poured cold water on the proposal, saying "we have yet to see any credible alternatives to the backstop".

The controversial suggestions are contained in one of the so-called 'non-papers' submitted by the UK to the EU recently.

The spokesman added: "The EU task force has indicated that any non-papers it has received from the UK to date fall well short of the agreed aims and objectives of the backstop. "

Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, Mr Johnson reiterated his stance on Brexit talks, saying "getting rid of the backstop is a fantastic thing".

"What we wanted to do is to get rid of the backstop, and that's the most important thing," Mr Johnson said.

"We will also want changes to the political declaration which sets out the future shape of the relationship between the UK and the EU.

"But getting rid of the backstop is a fantastic thing because what that does is it enables the UK genuinely to take back control of our regulatory framework, of our tarrifs, of our customs and commercial policy, and it allows us to go forward with a new and exciting relationship, not just with the EU but also with the rest of the world.

"That's what we want to do, that's one of the major points of Brexit. There's no point in doing Brexit if you stay locked in the Customs Union, and locked in the Single Market, with no say on those institutions, no say on that rule making, and that was basically what the existing Withdrawal Agreement committed this country to doing," he added.

Meanwhile, Brexit did not feature heavily in Mr Hogan's appearance before the EU Parliament's trade committee as he was instead forced to field questions on the US and China.

However, he did say that any future trade deal between the EU and UK would have to prioritise "a level playing field" so that British businesses could not undercut their European competitors in relation to standards.

He promised to "stand up" for Europe against global powers.

Mr Hogan also launched a staunch defence of the Mercosur deal, which is strongly opposed by farmers.

And he vowed to reshape the EU's relationship with China and India, saying they get unfair preferential treatment due to their status as developing countries.

On the Mercosur trade deal with South American countries, Mr Hogan said he "very much" understood "the concerns of agriculture".

"But when you look at the cumulative impact in what we have achieved throughout the world in trade deals, we have a very positive outcome overall."

He described himself as "appalled" by fires in the Amazon forest - but insisted the Mercosur deal gave the EU "huge" leverage to force change in the region.

"We have a lot of positives in the agreement and we also have to be mindful of the sensitivities," he said.

Mr Hogan did accept the EU needed to communicate the detail of the agreement better.

The former minister appears set to be easily approved as a commissioner for five more years after a solid performance at the committee hearing.

He was rarely challenged by MEPs, although one German politician said his written commitments towards sustainable development and labour laws were "extremely lame".

There was embarrassment for Romania and Hungary when their nominees for the commission were rejected.

The parliament's legal affairs committee said the financial affairs of Rovana Plumb and László Trócsányi posed potential conflicts of interest.

Incoming commission president Ursula von der Leyen asked the two countries to put forward two new names for the transport and enlargement portfolios.

Mr Hogan's appointment to the powerful portfolio is expected to be confirmed today with sources telling the Irish Independent that MEPs viewed his performance as "very strong".

German MEP Bernd Lange, who chaired last night's meeting, said it was "a defining moment of democracy in the EU".

"This is more than a grilling exercise. It should help define our trade policy for the next five years," he said.

Mr Hogan laid out his priorities, which include trying to end tensions with the Trump administration.

He said he would "try my best politically to persuade the US to work toward a positive, balanced and more mutually beneficial partnership with the EU".

At the same time, he said he would "stand up" for EU values because "it takes two to tango".

Irish Independent


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