Juncker says 'still some problematic points' as Boris Johnson outlines plans to replace backstop

Juncker says 'still some problematic points' as Boris Johnson outlines plans to replace backstop

The five elements of Boris Johnson's proposals are:

  • A commitment to a solution compatible with the Good Friday Agreement;
  • Confirmation of support for long-standing areas of UK-Ireland collaboration including the Common Travel Area and north-south co-operation;
  • The potential creation of an all-Ireland regulatory zone covering all goods including agri-food;
  • The consent of those affected by that all-Ireland zone with the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly given the chance to endorse the plan before it comes into effect and then every four years;
  • Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory and outside the EU’s customs union.

Boris Johnson has told the EU the backstop is a 'bridge to nowhere' as he outlined his plans to replace it.

The British Prime Minister has sent his plans to the European Commission saying it would be a failure of statecraft if they can't reach a deal.

Mr Johnson said that the UK government are proposing a new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland that would be delivered to the EU today.

There are five elements to the proposals put forth:

1. "Our proposal is centred on our commitment to find solutions which are compatible with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

"This framework is the fundamental basis for governance in Norther Ireland and protecting it is the highest priority for all."

2. "It confirms our commitment to long-standing areas of UK/Ireland collaboration, including those provided for it in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, but also others, in some cases predating the European Union: the Common Travel Area, the rights of all those living in Northern Ireland, and North/South cooperation.

"These were set out in the previous Protocol and should be maintained in the new one."

3. "It provides for the potential creation of an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland, covering all goods including agrifood.

"For as long as it exists, this zone would eliminate all regulatory checks for trade in goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland by ensuring that goods regulations in Northern Ireland are the same as those in the rest of the EU.

4. "This regulatory zone must depend on the consent of those affected by it.

"This is essential to the acceptability of arrangements under which part of the UK accepts the rules of a different political entity.

"It is fundamental to democracy. We are proposing that the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly should have the opportunity to endorse those arrangements before they enter into force, that is, during the transition period, and every four years afterwards.

"If consent is not secured, the arrangements will lapse.

"The same should apply to the Single Electricity Market, which raises the same principles.

5. "Under these arrangements Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory, not the EU Customs Union, after the end of the transition period.

"It has always been a fundamental point for this Government that the UK will leave the EU customs union at the end of the transition period.

"We must do so whole and entire. Control of trade policy is fundamental to our future vision."

In the letter, Mr Johnson assured that the UK government wants to agree a deal.

Mr Johnson said “both sides now need to consider whether there is sufficient willingness to compromise” to reach an agreement in time.

The British Prime Minister reiterated his issues with the backstop and cited that it has been rejected by the UK parliament on three occasions.

Mr Johnson is gearing himself for 10 days of “intensive discussions” with the EU to get his Brexit deal agreed.

He said yesterday that his terms would be the “final offer” to Brussels.

Officials say a deal should already be in place before leaders meet at the European Council meeting on October 17-18 if there is to be consensus.

“I think the PM set out this morning that we are setting out proposals that we will look to build upon,” said a UK Government official in a briefing to journalists.

“I think what is important is seeing if the EU is willing to engage with this as a broad landing zone and to go into 10 days of fairly intensive discussions with us.

“If they don’t show they are willing to engage with this proposal then the Prime Minister has been clear we will move forward and that we will leave without a deal.”

Juncker says 'still some problematic points' as Boris Johnson outlines plans to replace backstop

The proposal is "entirely compatible with maintaining an open border in Northern Ireland", according to Mr Johnson's letter.

He said that it is "entirely reasonable" to manage the border in a different way as goods traded across the border makes up a little over 1%of UK-EU total trade in goods.

The proposal says that all customs processes need to comply with the UK and EU customs regimes and should take place on a "decentralised basis, with paperwork conducted electronically as goods move between the two countries, and with the very small number of physical checks needed conducted at traders' premises or other points on the supply chain".

The letter says that "specific, workable improvements and simplifications to existing customs rules between now and the end of the transition period".

Mr Johnson stated that there must be a "firm commitment (by both parties) never to conduct checks at the border in future".

A New Deal for Northern Ireland is proposed in order to support the transition.

The New Deal would offer "appropriate commitments to help boost economic growth and Northern Ireland's competitiveness, and to support infrastructure projects, particularly with cross-border focus".

Taken together, these proposals respect the decision taken by the people of the UK to leave the EU, while dealing pragmatically with that decision's consequences in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Also published alongside the UK government's proposal for a new Protocol is an Explanatory note on the proposals.

Juncker: Delicate balance struck by the Good Friday Agreement must be preserved

Following a phone call between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Mr Johnson, the Commission said in a statement: “President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke to Prime Minister Johnson on the phone this afternoon.

“The Prime Minister informed the President about the contents of the UK’s latest proposal – which includes a legal text, explanatory note and letter from Prime Minister Johnson.

“President Juncker welcomed Prime Minister Johnson’s determination to advance the talks ahead of the October European Council and make progress towards a deal.

“He acknowledged the positive advances, notably with regards to the full regulatory alignment for all goods and the control of goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

“However, the President also noted that there are still some problematic points that will need further work in the coming days, notably with regards to the governance of the backstop.

“The delicate balance struck by the Good Friday Agreement must be preserved. Another concern that needs to be addressed are the substantive customs rules.

Juncker says 'still some problematic points' as Boris Johnson outlines plans to replace backstop

“He also stressed that we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU’s Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.

“President Juncker confirmed to Prime Minister Johnson that the Commission will now examine the legal text objectively, and in light of our well-known criteria.

“The EU wants a deal. We remain united and ready to work 24/7 to make this happen – as we have been for over three years now.”

The European Commission said meetings between the EU and UK negotiation teams will take place in Brussels over the coming days.

The European Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team will update the European Parliament and the Council this evening.

President Juncker will also speak to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and “will listen carefully to his views”, the Commission said.

EU's Chief Brexit Michel Barnier negotiator says it represents progress but hinted that a deal is some way off.

“There is progress. But to be frank, a lot of work still needs to be done to reach, to fulfil, the three objectives of the backstop – no border, all-Ireland economy, and protecting the single market," said Mr Barnier.

“That means protecting the consumer, the citizens, and the businesses inside the single market, the 27 member states.

“So now we will continue to work, to work to reach a deal.

The no-deal will never be the choice of the EU. Never.

"So we will continue to reach a deal and to work with the UK team.”

- Additional reporting by Press Association

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