Boris Johnson's plan to achieve Brexit at the end of the month revealed: Brexit News for Thursday 3 October

Boris Johnson's plan to achieve Brexit at the end of the month revealed: Brexit News for Thursday 3 October
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Boris Johnson’s plan to achieve Brexit at the end of the month revealed…

Boris Johnson has submitted his proposals for a new EU withdrawal deal, with a warning to Brussels that if agreement cannot be reached in time for the Brexit date of 31 October it will represent “a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible”. In a four-page letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, Mr Johnson described his plan as a “fair and reasonable compromise” containing a new protocol aiming to resolve the thorny issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. He said he hoped it would provide the basis for “rapid negotiations towards a solution” so the UK can leave in an orderly way in 29 days’ time on Halloween. The prime minister said his proposal would remove the so-called “backstop” arrangements for the Irish border – which he described as a “bridge to nowhere” – from the previous withdrawal agreement secured by his predecessor Theresa May last November. “The government wants to get a deal, as I am sure we all do. If we cannot get one, it would represent a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible,” he told Mr Juncker. “Our predecessors have tackled harder problems: we can surely solve this one.” The UK offer proposes an all-Ireland regulatory regime not only for agriculture and food products, but for all manufactured goods, effectively creating a border down the Irish Sea with traders having to notify the authorities about the nature of every shipment between the British mainland and the North. – Independent

  • Boris Johnson: No-deal only alternative to Brexit plan – BBC News
  • My mother voted to leave the EU, says Boris Johnson – The Times (£)

> On BrexitCentral today: Boris Johnson’s new Brexit offer to Jean-Claude Juncker

> WATCH: Boris Johnson’s speech to Conservative Party Conference

…which Michael Gove says has a very good chance of getting through Parliament

Boris Johnson’s new Brexit plan to resolve the Northern Ireland backstop conundrum “has a very good chance of getting through” Parliament, Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said. The Prime Minister’s potential solution would see Northern Ireland effectively remain tied to EU single market rules for goods but leave the customs union. Under his proposal, the arrangements would have to be approved by the currently suspended Assembly, which would then vote every four years on whether to keep them. Appearing on ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston’s show, Mr Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal planning, said there was a “pretty solid majority” in the Commons for Mr Johnson’s plan. – ITV News

ERG chief Steve Baker says he could ‘proudly’ vote for the new EU plan…

Steve Baker, who chairs the European Research Group of Conservative Brexiteers and voted against Theresa May’s EU deal three times, said Mr Johnson’s fresh plan had ditched the “worst feature” of his predecessor’s proposals. The Prime Minister wants to replace the Irish backstop with a regulatory border in the Irish Sea and customs checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic, ultimately paving the way for the UK and EU to diverge on trade. “This is a very dramatic change of destination,” Mr Baker told BBC Newsnight. “So Theresa May’s deal is about a high-alignment model in a single customs territory with high regulatory alignment for the whole UK. Boris Johnson’s model is about special treatment for Northern Ireland and a free trade agreement as a destination, which is of course what the EU offered us. So if you look at the destination and the overall pattern it’s a dramatic shift.” – PoliticsHome

> WATCH: ERG chairman Steve Baker MP on BBC News

…and the DUP endorses Johnson’s offer to the European Union…

The DUP has endorsed Boris Johnson’s offer to the European Union. It includes the creation of an all-island regulatory zone for agriculture, food and all manufactured goods. DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was a serious and sensible way forward which “allows the people of Northern Ireland a role which they didn’t have”. Speaking in Belfast after returning from the Conservative Party conference Mrs Foster said it gives the people of Northern Ireland “the consent that they didn’t have in terms of the anti-democratic nature of the backstop”. This is a serious and sensible way forward to have engagement with the European Union in a way that allows us all in the United Kingdom to leave the EU,” she added. – BBC News

  • Donaldson dismisses Brexit U-turn claims as DUP throws weight behind Johnson’s new plan – Belfast Telegraph
  • Sinn Fein says DUP will never be allowed veto on post-Brexit border plans – Belfast Telegraph

…although Jeremy Corbyn indicates he would oppose Johnson’s proposal, citing No Deal fears…

Jeremy Corbyn admitted that he was scared that Boris Johnson had been preparing to take the UK out of the EU with no deal. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced that he was worried Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s actions and behaviour over the last few weeks was in service of his desire for a no deal Brexit. Mr Corbyn also attacked the Prime Minister for his absence from the Commons and scrutiny from the Opposition. Mr Corbyn argued that Boris Johnson’s deal was also considerably worse than Theresa May’s. While speaking to Sky News he said: “Everything to do with his behaviour and his language over the past few weeks has been about getting a no deal Brexit. “I think the very least he could do is come to the House of Commons tomorrow to explain what his proposals are and to answer questions on them. We will be able to tell him quite clearly that we believe this deal is not acceptable. We do believe that a much better deal can be reached with the European Union.” – Express

…and Leo Varadkar deals a major blow by refusing to endorse the new proposals

Leo Varadkar has dismissed Boris Johnson’s initial Brexit proposals following talks with the Prime Minister this evening. The Irish President said Mr Johnson’s plan to remove the controversial backstop “do not fully meet the agreed objectives”. The Irish Government has said Mr Varadkar will study the plan in “further detail” and consult with Brussels chiefs over the next few days. Ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline, Mr Varadkar maintained he “wants to see a deal agreed and ratified” and would also hold further talks with the Prime Minister. A statement released by the Irish Government said: “The Taoiseach said the proposals do not fully meet the agreed objectives of the backstop. However, he indicated that he would study them in further detail, and would consult with the EU institutions, including the Task Force and our EU partners. The Taoiseach expects to speak with European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and with other EU heads of government over the coming days. This will include the Swedish and Danish prime ministers, with whom the Taoiseach has bilateral meetings on Thursday and Friday in their capitals. The Taoiseach said he wants to see a deal agreed and ratified, and will continue to work in unity with our EU partners to this end. The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister agreed they would speak again next week.” – Express

  • Pressure on Ireland to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal – Telegraph (£)

Jean-Claude Juncker ‘welcomes’ Johnson’s Brexit proposals but says there are ‘problematic points’…

Brussels has given Boris Johnson’s new plan to resolve the Northern Ireland backstop conundrum a cool response. While European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed the proposals, he said there were “problematic points” particularly relating to the “governance of the backstop”. The prime minister’s potential solution would see Northern Ireland effectively remain tied to EU single market rules for goods but leave the customs union. Under his proposal, the arrangements would have to be approved by the currently suspended Assembly, which would then vote every four years on whether to keep them. Mr Johnson wrote to Mr Juncker to say that it would be a “failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible” if the two sides could not strike a deal before the October 17 European Council. Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal preparations, insisted there would be no physical checks at the Irish border. He added: “If the EU reject these proposals out of hand then, in a way, they’re saying they would prefer no deal to a new deal and no deal would certainly mean disruption to life and commerce to the island of Ireland, which is in no one’s interests.” – ITV News

…as Michel Barnier tells MEPs that the Johnson backstop replacement is a ‘trap’…

Michel Barnier has dismissed Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposals to replace the Irish border backstop as a “trap”. The EU negotiator warned a group of senior MEPs that the EU could be locked into a string of commitments if the measure vetoed by the Northern Ireland Assembly. According to a source in the meeting, he said: “The EU would then be trapped with no backstop to preserve the single market after Brexit.” European officials are concerned that the Prime Minister’s demand for a “firm commitment by both parties to never conduct checks at the border in future” would leave the EU powerless to protect its single market if the DUP rejects the backstop. – Express

…and Guy Verhofstadt says he and European Parliament colleagues are ‘absolutely not positive’ about the proposal…

The Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament has said he is “absolutely not positive” about Boris Johnson’s new proposal for a deal with the EU.  Guy Verhofstadt, who chairs the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, said “the first assessment of nearly every member in the Brexit Steering Group was not positive. It doesn’t provide the necessary safeguards for Ireland,” he said. The Prime Minister published his new plan to the EU on Wednesday in which the controversial Irish backstop agreement had been removed. Mr Verhosfstadt said the group would flesh out objections on Thursday. Meanwhile, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator told reporters “a lot of work still needs to be done”. He said: “There is progress. But to be frank, a lot of work still needs to be done to reach, to fulfil, the three objectives of the backstop – no border, all-Ireland economy, and protecting the single market.” – Evening Standard

…while Brussels is reportedly ready to bypass Boris Johnson and grant a Brexit extension later this month even if he doesn’t request it 

The European Union could grant another Brexit delay even if the letter making a request for an extension beyond October 31 is not signed by the prime minister. European leaders are on standby to hold an emergency Brexit summit in the last week of the month if Boris Johnson fails to get a new withdrawal agreement past the House of Commons in the next two weeks. Under the terms of the Benn act, the government must ask for a further extension to the Article 50 process if he does not have Commons approval for a new agreement or the support of MPs for a no-deal Brexit by October 19. Mr Johnson has said repeatedly that he will not comply with the legislation but it is understood that the government as represented by the cabinet secretary, as head of the civil service, would make the request and accept a further delay. “I am sure the system will produce what we need to get to an extension,” a senior EU source said. “We don’t care who it is, whether it is the prime minister or another representative of the executive.” Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a senior Christian Democrat, said that an extension would be needed because Mr Johnson’s latest Brexit plans were “not serious and violate the law”, both in terms of the EU’s single market and the Benn act. “He wants to ask the EU not to extend the deadline and proposes a backstop that de facto is a hard border,” he tweeted. “Not least to protect the sovereignty of the British parliament, EU should give long extension.” – The Times (£)

Remain parties split on the best way to bring down the Government

Splits appeared in the so-called Remain alliance of MPs as the SNP accused the Liberal Democrats of blocking efforts to oust Boris Johnson. The dispute began at a meeting of opposition party leaders determined to prevent a no-deal Brexit. An SNP source said that Ian Blackford, the party’s leader in Westminster, had told other leaders “in no uncertain terms” that time was running out. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has said it is a matter of time before she tries to bring down the government but the Lib Dems and Labour cannot agree on when an election should be held and who would head a caretaker administration. Opposition parties have twice blocked attempts by Mr Johnson to hold an election before October 31. They fear that with parliament dissolved he could find a way around a law requiring him to delay Brexit. An SNP source accused the Lib Dems of “acting as a roadblock,” adding: “What started as a constructive process that achieved results is going nowhere”. The SNP had suggested last weekend that it could put forward a vote of confidence in the prime minister as early as this week. The source added that the party was “clear it is a case of when, not if, it will move to bring this dangerous government down”. It is understood that the party is not ruling out anything, including taking Mr Johnson up on his offer last week to allow them parliamentary time to put forward a confidence vote. However, the SNP may not be prepared to act before an extension to Britain’s exit from the European Union is guaranteed. Sources said that the party would not do anything that would risk a disorderly Brexit. Labour and the Lib Dems are at loggerheads over who should lead an administration if the government is brought down. Jo Swinson, leader of the Lib Dems, has insisted that her party’s votes will not put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street. Labour, however, is adamant that its leader must take charge. – The Times (£)

Anti-Brexit MPs fear No. 10 could ignore the Benn Act thanks to People’s Vote and Extinction Rebellion

Boris Johnson could use the cloak of anti-Brexit and climate change protests to ignore a law forcing him to delay Brexit, MPs fear.  Opposition MPs think the Prime Minister could claim a march by the People’s Vote campaign and action by Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists – due on Saturday, October 19 – justify him seizing emergency powers. He could trigger the Civil Contingencies Act, giving No10 sweeping powers, including to override the Benn Bill. That legislation orders him to seek a Brexit extension by October 19 if he has failed to strike a new deal to exit the EU. The date is crucial because Mr Johnson will have spent two days on October 17 and 18 trying to thrash out a fresh pact in Brussels. If he fails, the law states he must ask Brussels for a delay. But worried anti-Brexit MPs bidding to foil a no-deal departure have received legal advice saying the Civil Contingencies Act could be used if there are fears of widespread disorder. Sources told the Mirror they believe Mr Johnson could try to exploit the two London demonstrations saying they pose a threat to public safety – giving him the cover he needs to trigger the Act. – MIrror

Leaked Tory memo orders MPs to call the EU “crazy” if it rejects Johnson’s Brexit proposals

Boris Johnson’s senior aides have ordered Conservative MPs to call the European Union “crazy” if it rejects the Brexit proposals tabled by the UK on Wednesday, an internal memo leaked to BuzzFeed News reveals. In a special post-conference “lines to take” email sent to Tory MPs after Johnson’s Europe adviser, David Frost, delivered the government’s new offer to Brussels, the prime minister’s aides made clear that they would seek to blame the EU if a deal could not be reached. The memo acknowledged that the UK government is willing to negotiate further with the EU, contrary to briefings from Downing Street to journalists that Brussels would have to “take or leave it”. The memo said: “We are obviously happy to negotiate details.” But the memo was adamant that Johnson will not move from his red line of keeping Northern Ireland inside the UK’s customs territory and outside the EU’s. In a sign of the tough rhetoric that Johnson’s government can be expected to use if talks with Brussels break down, MPs were told that if the EU refuses to negotiate on this point, then Conservatives should say that it is Brussels that ended talks, that a deal is “impossible”, and that the EU’s policy is “crazy”. “If the EU maintains the position that in effect Northern Ireland is never allowed to leave the Customs Union, then it is impossible to negotiate any deal – in which case there will be checks according to the Commission’s own logic,” the memo said. “This will be seen by everybody as a crazy policy. We have offered a compromise to avoid this situation.” – Buzzfeed News

NHS Wales unveils ‘Brexit warehouse’ as it calls for no-deal scenario calm

NHS Wales has urged people not to panic over medicine supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as it gave a tour of its facility storing products in case of supply issues. The so-called “Brexit Warehouse” was bought by the Welsh Government to store around 1,000 extra products including medical gloves, needles and dressings at a cost of about £5 million. On Wednesday, media were given a tour of the secret 240,000 sq ft facility in south-east Wales, where officials stressed they were prepared for potential supply issues in case the UK left the EU without a deal. Mark Roscrow, director of procurement at NHS Wales, said the supplies would last “quite a few months” in the event of supply issues caused by a no-deal exit and discouraged the public from panicking and stockpiling themselves. – Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson trying again to prorogue Parliament for Queen’s speech from 8th October

Parliament is to be suspended for a second time from next week, Downing Street has confirmed. Boris Johnson will request the Queen shuts down the Commons next Tuesday, 8 October, for at least three days. He will then return to hold his Queen’s Speech setting out plans on Monday 14 October. The suspension would be days before a critical EU summit at which the Prime Minister will try to get a new Brexit deal signed off. The last prorogation of parliament was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court and saw MPs return to Westminster last Wednesday. – iNews

Liam Fox: A government of national unity is no such thing

Outside the Conservative conference in Manchester this week, the usual array of Left-wing haters was assembled to pour abuse on those attending. We have become used to chants of “Tory scum”, and worse than that in previous years, so few attendees allowed it to interrupt their business. In a less aggressive protest alongside, a number of protesters had unfurled a banner: “Stop Brexit. Save our democracy,” it read. To most reasonable people this is patently absurd. What is Brexit if not following the instruction given by the British people to their Parliament following the democratic referendum in 2016? Given that more British people voted for Brexit than any other proposition in our history, how could stopping it possibly be democratic? Perhaps these protesters –  and the many other activists who have carried similar banners at marches across Britain – are simply ignorant of the democratic process. Yet I fear it is a reflection of something more sinister. – Liam Fox MP for the Telegraph (£)

Suella Braverman: We won’t all be happy but it’s time to compromise to back this reasonable offer

Several words and phrases leap out from this year’s Brexit hiatus. The first came from Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, who said in April that Britain “must not waste the time” provided by the extension to Article 50. And the second came yesterday, from Boris Johnson, in his letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission president. “Both sides”, wrote the prime minister, “now need to consider whether there is sufficient willingness to compromise and move beyond existing positions to get us to an agreement in time. We are ready to do that, and this letter sets out what I regard as a reasonable compromise: the broad landing zone in which I believe a deal can begin to take shape.” Both are right, which is why I and I hope a majority of MPs from all sides of the Commons can come together and vote for a new withdrawal deal which, judging by the changes requested by Mr Johnson, would be a substantial improvement on the one rejected so comprehensively earlier in the year. I have no doubt that the potential new Withdrawal Agreement will not be perfect from everyone’s point of view. From my perspective, as a former chairman of the European Research Group, the government has gone further than I would like by suggesting that Northern Ireland should remain aligned not only with EU SPS regulations, but also goods regulations, and there should consequently be checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. But, as the prime minister says, we all need to compromise and if the Democratic Unionists support this proposal, subject to the consent of Stormont Assembly, then I believe I can accept it too. The really big point is we can get Brexit done if we put our minds to it and are willing to be reasonable. – Suella Braverman MP for The Times (£)

David Shiels: Boris Johnson’s bold plan to bin the backstop will be doomed without a domestic mandate

The Government’s plan for replacing the backstop is a bold attempt to seize the initiative in the negotiations with the EU. Until now all sides have agreed in theory that the UK could leave the Customs Union but have not confronted what this means in practice. Looked at from first principles, the Government’s proposals involve some important compromises. The plan seeks to share the burden of checks between the land border and the sea border: ‘two borders for four years.’ In declaring that Northern Ireland should leave the EU’s Customs Union along with the rest of the UK, Johnson is honouring a commitment to the Unionists of Northern Ireland and making an important statement about the integrity of the UK. As the Prime Minister put it on Tuesday, ‘in the end a sovereign, united country must have a single customs territory.’ The hope that Johnson would readily return to the EU’s original Northern Ireland-only backstop seems to have been scotched for now. In other respects, the package represents a significant move towards the EU’s position. The chances of an agreement in October were always slim. The Irish Government takes the view that no deal is better than a bad deal, and it thinks that an Agreement without the backstop is a bad deal. The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, repeated yesterday that while the Government may have to impose checks ‘near the border’ in a No Deal situation, he would not sign up to checks as part of a deal. This position is probably sustainable for as long as Dublin thinks that a No Deal Brexit can be avoided. For now, Dublin seems to hope that the Benn Act will come to the rescue, and that Boris Johnson will be forced to seek an extension. Unless and until he secures a domestic mandate for his position, the Prime Minister will struggle to convince Ireland and the EU to engage with him on these terms. – David Shiels for the Telegraph (£)

Olivia Utley: Boris Johnson could build a powerful new constituency in the young liberals who are rejecting the EU

It says a lot about the state of Britain that a suggestion from Jon Snow last week that there should be a second Brexit vote because “so many Brexit voters have died” barely got any attention outside the Westminster bubble.  The sad truth is we’ve all got so used to hardline Remainers shouting about how they’ll triumph once all the crusty oldies are dead, we can hardly be bothered to be outraged anymore. But it’s still worth pointing out just how misguided the argument is. Young leavers were a formidable – if forgotten – force three years ago (nearly a third of 18-24s voted for Brexit), and their ranks have swelled since. In 2016, most young people who’d grown up with the EU as a backdrop to their lives couldn’t see the point of rocking the boat (myself included). But after three years of Brexit in the headlines, we’ve been forced to look into what the EU actually does, and many of us don’t like it one bit.  To liberal young optimists who grew up in a borderless online world, the sluggish EU – which discriminates based on geography and stymies competition – looks more than a little backwards. In 2012, Boris Johnson won the votes of thousands of young liberals with a cosmopolitan, outward-looking vision for London. If he plays his cards right come election time, he might just be able to transform that same generation into passionate Brexiteers, who share his vision for a truly global Britain. – Olivia Utley for the Telegraph (£)

James Forsyth: Will Leavers forgive a Brexit delay?

‘It is definitely less than 50 per cent,’ says one Downing Street source when asked about the chances of a Brexit deal. And this is one of the optimists. One cabinet minister warns that the UK ‘is driving into a brick wall’ with its current Brexit proposals; other ministers are not sure if this offer is designed to make a deal or just to make the point that London was prepared to compromise but Brussels refused to budge. So it’s a stand-off. Boris Johnson is determined to take the whole of the UK out of the customs union, and the Irish and the EU are equally robust in their view that there can’t be checks on the island of Ireland. It’s plain that there isn’t going to be a deal any time soon, and there might not be many more negotiations either. No. 10 is clear that it isn’t interested in Potemkin talks. It only wants to do them if there is a genuine chance of a deal. The odds are that negotiations will have broken down before the EU Council in mid-October. The Benn Act legally obliges the UK government to seek an extension on 19 October if no agreement with the EU has been reached. Downing Street, though, is adamant that it won’t be requesting an extension — but neither will the Prime Minister disobey the law. Those close to him are clear that he won’t resign either. He doesn’t want to give up the job and thinks voters wouldn’t thank him for letting Jeremy Corbyn in. No. 10 is frantically looking for loopholes in the Benn Act, a plausible way to avoid sending the letter which isn’t simply breaking the law. They know that whatever the legal justification for their actions, they’ll be challenged in court — and will probably lose. So if any escape plan is doomed, why bother? The answer is that No. 10 thinks it needs to try, so as to be seen to be doing every-thing in its power to keep its promise of leaving by 31 October. To give up now and admit defeat would be to break faith with voters. – James Forsyth for The Spectator

Liam Halligan: Leo Varadkar has painted himself into a corner by cynically using the Irish border to stymie Brexit

The 320-mile Irish land border runs through towns, along rivers and even divides individual farms. Most of the 270 or so crossing points are marked, if at all, by a simple sign or a white line on the road. Since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, this largely invisible border has replaced the sentry posts and security checks of the Troubles. Nobody wants them back. Yet the Irish frontier has been cynically used in an attempt to stymie the biggest act of democracy in British history. Boris Johnson’s “alternative arrangements” for the Irish border didn’t exactly go down well in Dublin yesterday. While the European Union has said that it is open to talks, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the plan as “not promising” and said that it “does not appear to form the basis for an agreement”. On cue, the outrage machine was cranked up. Britain’s Brexit impasse owes much to home-grown shortcomings – Theresa May’s weak leadership, venal party politics and an overwhelmingly pro-Remain political and media class. But Dublin has also played a big role. Varadkar teamed up with Brussels to adopt a maximalist, ultra-legalistic approach to the Irish border which made a no-deal Brexit far more likely – an outcome that could harm the Irish economy more than that of Britain. He has also imperilled the huge progress in UK-Irish relations since the precious 1998 agreement. But while Johnson has put forward productive and reasonable proposals, Varadkar has painted himself into a corner. As a result, I see almost no possibility of any deal before the crunch EU summit in a fortnight. Brussels will then signal its willingness to grant an extension – why not, given the prospect of £1 billion a month and potentially a second referendum? – Liam Halligan for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • Brexit is going to drive us all mad – Ed West for UnHerd
  • John Humphrys stuns Piers Morgan as he reveals his Brexit stance in grilling over bias – Express
  • Brexiteer Baker brutally shuts down BBC Newsnight host in fiery clash over no deal EU exit – Express