Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson out in the cold with no Brexit deal in sight

The Prime Minister’s attempts to secure a deal with Brussels continue to be met with frostiness by EU leaders.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempts to secure a deal with Brussels continue to be met with frostiness by EU leaders (Victoria Jones/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempts to secure a deal with Brussels continue to be met with frostiness by EU leaders (Victoria Jones/PA)

By Catherine Wylie, PA

Boris Johnson’s attempts to secure a deal with Brussels continue to be met with frostiness by EU leaders whose objections are beginning to become clearer.

The Prime Minister has said that his blueprint to resolve the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop represents a “fair and reasonable compromise”.

However, EU leaders have so far refused to enter into detailed discussions on the plan, saying it does not represent the basis for a new Brexit settlement.

As the clock ticks down, a new Brexit readiness document is expected to be published on Tuesday subject to the Speaker approving a statement by no-deal planning chief Michael Gove.

The Cabinet Office said the paper sets out what will change if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal on October 31.

The EU’s main concern is an aspect of the Ireland protocol which commits both sides to never introducing checks on the Irish border, according to the BBC.

The EU would see it as an unacceptable loss of control if the Stormont Assembly is given a veto and there were no guarantees over what checks the UK would carry out on goods going to Ireland.

The BBC reported that the EU Commission even asked if this was a mistake in the text.

To marginalise the Brexit Party, we will have to fight the election on the basis of 'No more delays, get Brexit done immediately' Source in No 10

The broadcaster also reported that the UK is insisting on access to continued access to EU databases for cross-border trade, and that small business be excluded from customs checks.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly said that, while he will abide by the law, Britain is leaving on October 31 come what may – although he has yet to explain how that can be achieved.

The Spectator political editor James Forsyth quoted a source in Number 10 as saying there were “all sorts of things” they could do to scupper a delay.

The source was also quoted as blaming Irish Premier Leo Varadkar for refusing to negotiate, and warning that if Mr Johnson’s plan “dies” in the next few days it would not be revived.

“To marginalise the Brexit Party, we will have to fight the election on the basis of ‘No more delays, get Brexit done immediately’,” the source is quoted as saying.

The source is also quoted as saying: “Those who pushed the Benn Act intended to sabotage a deal and they’ve probably succeeded.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the workings of a deal need to be in place by Friday (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

“So the main effect of it will probably be to help us win an election by uniting the leave vote and then a no-deal Brexit. History is full of such ironies and tragedies.”

The source is quoted as saying that it will be made clear both privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will “go the front of the queue for future co-operation – co-operation on things both within and outside EU competences”, adding: “Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue.”

Amber Rudd, who resigned from Mr Johnson’s Cabinet and the Tory Party last month, said she believes the Number 10 source quoted by The Spectator is the Prime Minister’s controversial aide, Dominic Cummings.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It sounds angry and desperate. And the language that is used, I do not believe should be the language of a UK Government.”

She added: “I think Dominic Cummings, yes, because otherwise it would have been heavily denied and heads would have rolled. So clearly it’s come from them, it’s in their style.

“It reveals that there doesn’t appear to be an actual plan at all. Instead, what they’re doing is angrily, apparently, begging the EU not to support a delay which will be required because of the position that Parliament has taken.

“And I urgently would ask the Prime Minister to take control of this and give us some clarity and some dignity and diplomacy on what is taking place.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the workings of a deal need to be in place by Friday if there is to be an agreement at the EU summit next week in Brussels.

Downing Street has said the comments were not “helpful” and urged Brussels to match the concessions made by the Prime Minister.

However, former premier David Cameron, speaking to The Times editor John Witherow at an event to promote his memoirs, said Mr Johnson may have to give more ground to get an agreement.

“The answer, I suspect, is now compromise on both sides,” he told the audience at the Barbican Centre in London on Monday.

“Boris is compromising and I suspect may have to move a bit more. And the EU should compromise too.”

Mr Cameron also said Mr Johnson could not ignore the Benn Act, which requires him to ask the EU for a further delay to Brexit if he cannot get a deal by October 19.

“You can’t disobey the law as Prime Minister,” he said.

PA

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