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Boris Johnson promises ‘good solution’ to Irish border in formal Brexit plan

Johnson’s comments follow the fall-out from the UK’s proposal to replace the backstop with a series of customs posts.

Image: PA Images

BORIS JOHNSON HAS urged the European Union to work with him on efforts to reach a Brexit deal when he presents formal proposals to break the deadlock within days.

The Prime Minister said it is now the moment when the “rubber hits the road” as the clock ticks down to the 31 October scheduled date for the UK’s exit from the EU. 

Johnson called for Brussels, Dublin and Berlin to work with him on the “good solution” the UK will be formally setting out.

Johnson’s comments come after Irish political leaders rejected proposals for customs posts along both sides of the Irish border to replace the backstop.

It was reported yesterday evening that the UK has – as part of a broader set of proposals – suggested creating a set of customs posts along both sides of the Irish border. 

The UK and the EU have been at loggerheads over the backstop, which Brexit supporters say is unacceptable.

The proposals would also create a “customs clearance site” in the North that could be monitored using GPS or tracking devices on trucks.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney described the so-called “non-paper” as a “non-starter” and said it was time the European Union had “a serious proposal” from the UK government if a deal was to be achieved before the 31 October deadline. 

Coveney added that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland “deserves better”.

‘Very good offer’

The prospect of customs posts returning to the area around the border has been one of the most recurring fears since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016. 

There have been repeated warnings that infrastructure along the border could become a target for dissident violence. 

But Johnson said these were preliminary ideas that had been floated and the formal proposals would be set out very shortly – widely expected to be later this week, after the Tory conference finishes tomorrow. 

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

“The difficulty really is going to be around the customs union and to what extent Northern Ireland can be retained within EU bodies at all.

“We’re going to make a very good offer, we are going to be tabling it very soon, but there is a difficulty if you try to keep Northern Ireland in a customs union because one of the basic things about being a country is you have a single customs perimeter and a single customs union,” Johnson said. 

In an indication of why the UK has delayed tabling its formal proposals, Johnson said there was a risk that critics could “needlessly distort” what was being put forward.

“We do think there’s a good solution. I very much hope that our European and EU friends in Brussels, in Dublin, in Germany as well, will want to take it forward,” he said.

‘Utterly unworkable’ 

In response to the so-called “non-papers”, Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “If Boris Johnson had spent any time listening to businesses and communities in Northern Ireland, he would know that these proposals are utterly unworkable.”

He added: “If accurate, these proposals represent yet another failure of the Government’s negotiating strategy.

“The Prime Minister should admit he has no credible plan for Brexit and that the only way to resolve this issue is to go back to the people with a public vote.”

Meanwhile, The Times reported that Mr Johnson’s plan to get around the Benn Act – the law aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit without MPs’ approval – would be to ask EU leaders to rule out any extension to the October 31 deadline.

He would then seek to present MPs in Parliament with a straight choice of agreeing the revised deal or leaving without an agreement on Halloween.

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