Johnson offers Brexit ‘compromise’ to EU

Prime Minister says U.K. will leave the grouping by October 31; promises that there won’t be checks at the Irish border
The U.K. offered the European Union a proposed Brexit deal on Wednesday that it said represents a compromise for both sides, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the bloc to hold “rapid negotiations towards a solution” after years of wrangling. In a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Mr. Johnson said that not reaching a deal by the U.K.’s scheduled October 31 departure date would be “a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.” The proposals focus on maintaining an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland the key sticking point to a Brexit deal. The U.K. proposes to do that by keeping Northern Ireland closely aligned to EU rules for trade in goods, possibly for an extended period.
‘Final offer’
The submission of formal proposals followed a speech by Mr. Johnson to Conservative Party members at their annual conference, which had been billed by his office as a take-it-or-leave-it “final offer” to the EU. Yet as delivered, it was more like a plea to the bloc, and to Britons, to end more than three years of acrimonious wrangling over the terms of the U.K.’s exit from the EU.
“Let’s get Brexit done,” was the repeated refrain to delegates at the conference in Manchester, northwest England. British voters in 2016 narrowly chose to leave the EU but the country remains deeply divided over how to do it. In his speech, Mr. Johnson said people who voted for Brexit “are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools”. “They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all,” he said in the nationally televised speech. “And if they turn out to be right in that suspicion, then I believe there will be grave consequences for trust in our democracy.” With Britain’s delayed departure from the bloc due to take place on October 31, Mr. Johnson said the government was sending “constructive and reasonable proposals” to the EU. But the plan is likely to face deep skepticism from EU leaders, who doubt the U.K. has a workable proposal to avoid checks on goods or people crossing the Irish border. A Brexit agreement between the EU and Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament, largely because of opposition to the “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to ensure there is no return to customs posts or other infrastructure on the Irish border. An open border underpins both the local economy and Northern Ireland’s peace process. But Mr. Johnson and other British Brexit supporters oppose the backstop because it would keep the U.K. tightly bound to EU trade rules in order to avoid customs checks limiting the country’s ability to strike new trade deals around the world. Mr. Johnson insisted that “we will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland.” The British proposal involves “an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland, covering all goods including agrifood.” That would keep Northern Ireland in a regulatory zone with the EU for food, agricultural and industrial products, removing the need for checks, but the EU will carefully study the details. The status has no time limit though it would have to be renewed every four years by the Northern Ireland government, Mr. Johnson said.
Under the plan there would still need to be customs checks, but Mr. Johnson suggested in his letter that they could be done away from the border at “other points on the supply chain.”

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