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UK to offer new Brexit plan to Brussels

Move to come after Tory conference concludes on Wednesday.

Britain to present Brussels with revamped Brexit plans (Yui Mok/PA)
Britain to present Brussels with revamped Brexit plans (Yui Mok/PA)

By Shaun Connolly, Aine McMahon and David Hughes, PA Staff

Britain is to present the EU with a Brexit plan within days as moves to find a breakthrough on the issue of the Northern Ireland border backstop intensify.

The UK will offer Brussels a revised Brexit deal by the end of the week as Prime Minister Boris Johnson ramps up efforts to strike an agreement.

It is understood the legal text of a Brexit plan will be sent to Brussels after the Tory conference concludes on Wednesday.

The move comes as Irish broadcaster RTE reported the UK had put forward the idea of custom clearance centres being set up five to ten miles either side of the Irish border.

However, Government sources distanced themselves from parts of the reports.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The reported plans by the British Government to create customs posts along both sides of the Irish border to replace the backstop were dismissed by Irish deputy premier Simon Coveney.

The idea for the customs posts are contained in the so-called ‘non-papers’ submitted by UK officials during recent technical discussions.

Mr Coveney poured cold water on the plans, saying Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland “deserves better.”

He tweeted: “Non-Paper = Non-Starter. Time the EU had a serious proposal from the UK Govt if a #Brexit deal is to be achievable in October. NI and IRE deserves better!”

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “If Boris Johnson had spent any time listening to businesses and communities in Northern Ireland, he would know that these proposals are utterly unworkable.”

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(PA Graphics)

The comments came after the Prime Minister said he remained “cautiously optimistic” about the prospect of a deal despite the limited time available ahead of the scheduled October 31 withdrawal date.

He said the UK side had made some “pretty big moves” towards a deal but it was up to Brussels to respond to find the right “landing zone”.

The moves came as it was was revealed that sexual and violent offenders will be kept behind bars for longer under plans being set out by the Justice Secretary.

Robert Buckland will confirm he will end the system which sees some of the most serious offenders released after serving just half their sentence.

The move – and a warning to criminals from Home Secretary Priti Patel that “we are coming after you” – is the latest sign of the Tories seeking to burnish their credentials as the party of law and order ahead of an expected election.

As the countdown to the Brexit deadline of October 31 continued, the PM insisted the UK would quit the EU on that date “whatever happens”.

Whatever happens, we’ll come out on October 31 Boris Johnson

He said: “I’m cautiously optimistic. We have made some pretty big moves, we are waiting to see whether our European friends will help us and whether we can find the right landing zone.

“But whatever happens, we’ll come out on October 31.”

Other reports said he UK was ready to suggest the creation of an all-Ireland economic zone allowing agricultural and food products to move between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic without checks at the border.

And The Times claimed Mr Johnson wanted the EU to rule out any further Brexit extension as he moved to present a new Brexit arrangement.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said he thinks he knows how the Prime Minister intends to achieve the October 31 withdrawal despite the restrictions of the Benn Act.

The law was rushed through Parliament to require the Prime Minister to seek a delay to Brexit if a deal has not been agreed by October 19, or if MPs have not agreed to leave the EU without one.

But there have been suspicions in pro-EU circles that the Prime Minister will try to avoid complying with the requirements.

The Chancellor told the BBC: “Of course, every government should observe all laws at all times. We’re taking a careful look at that law.”

He said there could be no more “dither and delay and we will leave if we have to without a deal on October 31”.

“The intention of the law is clear and I do think it has absolutely made it harder for the Government to get the deal that we all want to see. That said, it can still be done.

“It’s not about getting around the law. I don’t really want to discuss the detail of this law, it’s a pretty fresh new law, but we are also clear at all times we, of course, like any government, we will absolutely observe the law.”

The Chancellor said he was not sure how much a no-deal Brexit would cost the economy in the short term.

“I don’t think anyone really knows a full, proper answer to that question. And I have never pretended that if you leave without a deal it won’t be challenging.”

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly heavily hinted the Government believed there was a way of wriggling out of the Benn Act.

He told a Politico fringe event in Manchester on Monday evening: “Legislation passed in a rush tends to be bad legislation.”

He refused to say how the Government could get around the legislation, adding: “What we’ve seen is parties distorting the parliamentary process, breaking conventions, taking a very creative interpretation of parliamentary procedures to prevent the Government discharging a promise the Prime Minister made and indeed a promise that all parties made at the referendum.

“And I’m not going to help them by showing them our homework.”

PA

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