Boris Johnson reveals Brexit plan as he calls on EU to abolish backstop

EU officials reportedly believe Boris Johnson wants Brexit to fail (PA)
EU officials reportedly believe Boris Johnson wants Brexit to fail. (PA)

Boris Johnson revealed his Brexit plan on Wednesday and appealed to the EU to compromise to reach a deal.

In a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, he warned there was “very little time” to agree a deal before the 31 October Brexit deadline.

The letter laid out a five-point plan to replace the Irish backstop – the legal mechanism in the Withdrawal Agreement to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – which is loathed by Brexiteers who argue it keeps the UK tied to rules from Brussels.

The letter says: “This Government wants to get a deal, as I am sure we all do.

“If we cannot reach one, it would represent a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.

“Our predecessors have tackled harder problems: we can surely solve this one.”

After speaking to Johnson by telephone, the Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the moves do not fully meet the objectives of the backstop, but said that he will study them.

Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliament's Brexit steering group coordinator, said: “I can tell you that the first reaction of the [group] was not positive, not positive in the sense that we don’t think that this is really the safeguards that Ireland needs.”

Boris Johnson's Brexit plan was delivered to Jean-Claude Juncker today
Boris Johnson's Brexit plan was delivered to Jean-Claude Juncker today. (

What is Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan?

The document published by Number 10 outlines the PM’s “two border” plan for Northern Ireland.

It involves Northern Ireland abiding by the EU’s rules for goods and food, with checks taking place between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. This will in effect create a regulatory border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The plan also involves customs checks on goods traded between Ireland and Northern Ireland at “points on the supply chain” but away from the border.

These are the five points of the Prime Minister’s plan are:

  • Honouring the Good Friday Agreement

  • Supporting long-standing areas of UK-Ireland collaboration including the Common Travel Area

  • An all-Ireland regulatory zone for goods and agrifoods

  • 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 to be fully part of the UK customs territory and outside the EU’s customs union

Mr Johnson is to outline the plans to Juncker in a phone call on Wednesday afternoon.

The Prime Minister received a rapturous applause as he committed to Brexit (PA)
The Prime Minister received a rapturous applause as he committed to Brexit. (PA)

Conservative Party conference speech

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said he is offering the EU a “constructive and reasonable” Brexit proposal.

The Prime Minister once again reiterated his commitment to leaving the EU by the 31 October deadline – and called on Brussels to “compromise” to secure a deal.

The EU is already widely reported to have dismissed his plan for an alternative to the Irish backstop after much of it was leaked overnight to The Telegraph, with one EU official describing the proposal as a “bucket of sick”.

The PM said the plan represented a compromise by the UK, and that he expected the EU to also make similar concessions.

He said that if the EU rejected the proposals, the alternative would be a no-deal Brexit.

What does the EU think of Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan?

After the plans were leaked, Philippe Lamberts, co-leader of the Greens–European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, said Mr Johnson was not serious about trying for a deal.

He told Sky News: “My sense, but it is only my guess, is that what he is seeking is a no-deal Brexit, but with the ability of putting the blame on the EU27 [the 27 countries that would make up the EU after Brexit].

“That is consistent with the way he has behaved, with his public statements, the way he has antagonised both the EU27 and his own parliament.

“He doesn’t seem like a person who genuinely seeks a deal.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for interviews at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
The PM has vowed to take Britain out of the EU by the October 31 deadline (AP)

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Others have poured further water on the proposals, with former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Hain suggesting they would be in breach of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act and would "sabotage" the Good Friday Agreement by creating a border with checks.

Trade expert David Henig, from the European Centre For International Political Economy think-tank, said the plan "seems to consist of the worst parts of the backstop and no deal", adding: "I'm struggling to see any way this is acceptable to the EU or Northern Ireland.”

The 'two border' proposal for the Irish backstop (PA)
The 'two border' proposal for the Irish backstop (PA)

In his conference speech Mr Johnson said voters feel they are being “taken for fools” by Westminster’s politicians.

He said: “Voters are desperate for us to focus on their other priorities – what people want, what Leavers want, what Remainers want, what the whole world wants – is to move on.

“That is why we are coming out of the EU on October 31. Let’s get Brexit done – we can, we must and we will.”