October 02, 2019
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will unveil his final Brexit offer to the EU on Oct 2, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
LONDON (DPA, REUTERS) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to ask for sweeping exemptions from European Union customs rules as part of his alternative to the backstop for regulating the Irish border after Brexit, the Telegraph reported on Tuesday (Oct 1).
Rejected by pro-Brexit critics who believe it would keep Britain in an indefinite customs arrangement with the European Union, the backstop has been a key stumbling block in the negotiations between Brussels and London.
Its proponents say the fall-back arrangement is essential in order to keep an open border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland in order to honour a fragile peace deal.
The plan, which the Telegraph obtained exclusively ahead of its unveiling on Wednesday (Oct 2), would see Northern Ireland locked in a “special relationship” with the EU until 2025, according to the Telegraph.
The newspaper reported that Mr Johnson’s proposal would accept a “regulatory border” between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom in the Irish Sea for four years, as well as customs checks between Ulster and the Republic of Ireland.
The reported proposal is unlikely to satisfy EU leaders as it would ask for major exemptions from the bloc’s customs rules. It is also likely to face opposition from Dublin.
Ireland has used its clout in the EU to push for an open border after Brexit, wary of the decades-long conflict in the North between predominantly Protestant pro-London unionists and predominantly Catholic Irish republicans.
The backstop would guarantee an open Irish border – a cornerstone of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement – by requiring Britain to continue to adhere to EU customs rules until another solution is found.
Mr Johnson will unveil his final Brexit offer to the EU on Wednesday and make clear that if Brussels does not engage with the proposal, Britain will not negotiate further and will leave on the extended Brexit deadline of Oct 31.