Leaked memo leads to doubts over seriousness of Boris Johnson’s proposals

By Catherine Wylie, PA

The seriousness of Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposals has been called into question after a leaked memo appeared to suggest that the EU could be described as “crazy” if they blocked a deal.

European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said agreeing to the Prime Minister’s Brexit proposals would be “nearly impossible” because of the backstop ideas.

But he also referred to the leaked memo – partially published by Buzzfeed – said to be an email sent to Tory MPs from Mr Johnson’s aides on Wednesday night.

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The memo said that if the EU maintains the position that in effect Northern Ireland is never allowed to leave the Customs Union “then is it impossible to negotiate any deal – in which case there will be checks according to the Commission’s own logic”.

The memo goes on: “This will be seen by everybody as a crazy policy. We have offered a compromise to avoid this situation.”

Mr Verhofstadt told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “We have serious doubts about the seriousness of these proposals because today a memo was leaked, a memo sent by Downing Street to Tory MPs to immediately blame the European Union.

“If such a document has really been sent to the Tory MPs you can have doubts about the seriousness of these proposals.”

Guy Verhofstadt
Guy Verhofstadt says the EU is sceptical about Mr Johnson’s proposals (Dominic Lipinksi/PA)

A senior Tory source said it was a “very deliberate and partial leak”.

Talking about Mr Johnson’s proposed plan, Mr Verhofstadt said: “We scrutinised the proposals that have been put forward by the UK Government and we are very sceptical about it because again it is repackaging old ideas that have already been discussed in the past.”

He particularly cited its reliance on the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has not sat for almost three years.

Mr Verhofstadt told Channel 4 News: “On this element it’s very difficult – and nearly impossible.”

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain if he had received the leaked memo, and he replied: “We don’t comment on leaks.”

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