Government publishes Brexit proposals

The government has published its Brexit proposals to the EU, including plans to replace the Irish backstop.

The plan would see Northern Ireland essentially stay in the European single market for goods, but leave the customs union.

The Northern Ireland Assembly would have to approve the arrangements first and be able to vote every four years on whether to keep them.

The European Commission says it will “examine [the proposals] objectively”.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Mr Johnson said the only alternative to his plan was no-deal.

He has written to the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, alongside the proposals, saying they “respect the decision taken by the people of the UK to leave the EU, while dealing pragmatically with that decision’s consequences in Northern Ireland and in Ireland“.

Government sources said they believed they could enter an intense 10-day period of negotiations almost immediately with the bloc, with the aim of coming to a final agreement at the EU council in the middle of the month.

Speaking before he saw the plan, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told the Irish Parliament: “What we are hearing is not encouraging and would not be the basis for agreement.”

Johnson: No-deal only alternative to Brexit plan Would a Brexit delay cost the UK £400m a week? UK Brexit plans to include Irish customs checks The UK is set to leave the EU on 31 October and the government has insisted it will not negotiate a further delay beyond the Halloween deadline.

However, under the terms of a law passed by Parliament last month, the PM faces having to request another extension unless MPs back the terms of withdrawal by 19 October – two days after a summit of European leaders.

What is in the proposals? The PM’s plan centres around replacing the backstop – the policy negotiated between Theresa May and EU to try and prevent hard borders returning to the island of Ireland.

Mr Johnson has called it “anti-democratic”, claiming it offers no means for the UK to unilaterally exit and no say for the people of Northern Ireland over the rules that would apply there.

His offer is for an “all-island regulatory zone”, which would mean Northern Ireland would have to follow EU rules for goods.

There would be additional checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but the UK would not apply further checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Ireland.

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption PM: Boris Johnson: “It (no deal) is not an outcome we want… but is an outcome for which we are ready” Northern Ireland would leave the EU customs union with the rest of the UK, so there would have to be new customs checks between North and South.

The government proposals suggest the vast majority of checks could be carried out electronically – but thinks a small number of physical checks would have to take place, either at business premises or at points on the supply chain.

The Stormont Assembly – Northern Ireland‘s parliament – would have to agree these proposals through a vote and would be given a vote every four years on whether to preserve them.

The government is also promising a “New Deal for Northern Ireland“, with financial commitments to help manage the changes.

In his letter to the European President Mr Juncker, the PM said he hoped his offer could “provide the basis for rapid negotiations towards a solution”.

Later, Mr Johnson will speak to Mr Juncker on the phone and the two sides’ negotiating teams will also meet.

Image caption Mr Johnson has written to the European Commission president about his proposals Ahead of reading the plan, Mr Varadker said, despite wanting a deal, he would not agree to one “at any cost” and Ireland was “ready for no-deal if that’s what the British decide to do”.

And before the proposals were submitted, a European Commission spokeswoman said they would examine the them objectively, adding: “We will listen carefully to the UK.”

But the spokeswoman also reminded the UK of its “well-known criteria”, saying: “In order for there to be a deal, we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop.

“[That means] 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.”

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