Johnson says new Brexit proposal ‘attempt to bridge the chasm’
Addressing the House of Commons today (Thursday), British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the latest proposal to reach a deal for existing the EU ‘a genuine attempt to bridge the chasm.’
He said, ‘This government’s objective has always been to leave with a deal. And these constructive and reasonable proposals show our seriousness of purpose.
They do not deliver everything that we would have wished. They do represent a compromise.
But to remain a prisoner of existing positions is to become a cause of deadlock rather than breakthrough.
And so, we have made a genuine attempt to bridge the chasm, to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable. And to go the extra mile as time runs short.’
Mr. Johnson said he had discussed the proposals over the phone with President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Junker, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
The Prime Minister outlined that the new proposal is made up of 5 elements namely,
- A shared determination to sustain the Good Friday Agreement
- Upholding all the longstanding areas of co-operation between the UK and Ireland including the Common Travel Area
- The potential creation of a regulatory zone on the island of Ireland covering all goods, including agri-food for a transitional period.
- The proposed regulatory zone to be sustained with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, as expressed through the Assembly and Executive.
- At the end of the transition period, that the UK should leave the EU Customs Union whole and entire.
Mr. Johnson went on to say that, ‘…under the proposals in this new Protocol, Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory not the EU Customs Union. But there will be no need for checks – or any infrastructure – at or near the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Indeed, I have already given a guarantee that the UK government will never conduct checks at the border and we believe that the EU should do the same, so there is absolute clarity on that point.’
Explaining how custom checks are proposed to be undertaken without checks taking place at the border he said, ‘Instead under this new Protocol all customs checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland would take place either electronically or in the small number of cases where physical checks would be necessary, they would happen at traders’ premises or other points in the supply chain.’
Speaking in the Irish Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney said, the proposal presented ‘legal and technical’ difficulties.
He said that, ‘Despite this paper saying they want to avoid customs checks they do raise the prospect of customs checks somewhere, not just in premises and businesses, and we think that’s going to be a real problem.’
European Commission President Jean Claude Junker also expressed concerns about the proposal. A statement issued on behalf of Mr. Junker said: The delicate balance struck by the Good Friday Agreement must be preserved. Another concern that needs to be addressed are the substantive customs rules.
The statement said that a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop must be met. These include 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.
(Image: Michaelday_bath via creativecommons.org)