PM to tour European capitals in pursuit of backing for proposal

Johnson tells parliament Brexit offer to EU a ‘broad landing zone’ for eventual agreement

British prime minister Boris Johnson has told MPs he has made a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” to strike a fresh Brexit deal with the EU with his proposals to replace the backstop. Video: UK Parliament

 

Boris Johnson is planning a tour of European capitals at the weekend in an attempt to win support for his Brexit proposal, as he signalled that he is ready to change the plan in order to secure a deal.

Mr Johnson told the House of Commons on Thursday that the proposal already represents a major compromise by Britain but he described it as “a broad landing zone” for agreement rather than a final offer.

“People should be reminded that what the UK has done is already very considerable. We have already moved quite some way, and I hope that our friends and partners across the Channel do understand that,” he said.

Mr Johnson’s European adviser David Frost will be in Brussels on Friday for talks with the European Commission’s Brexit taskforce. And the prime minister is planning to visit a number of European capitals in the coming days, although Downing Street declined to discuss his plans.

Boris Johnson's letter to Jean-Claude Juncker

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Under his proposal, Northern Ireland would continue to adhere to EU regulations on goods after Brexit, with some checks on goods coming into the North from Great Britain. But Northern Ireland would leave the EU customs union along with the rest of the UK, creating a customs border on the island of Ireland which Mr Johnson said can be managed without checks at or near the Border.

The Northern Ireland Assembly would have to approve the decision to remain aligned with EU regulations in advance, and every four years after that.

The DUP’s 10 MPs were not in the chamber for Mr Johnson’s statement because they had flown back to Belfast to avoid Storm Lorenzo. Independent Unionist Sylvia Hermon condemned the plan as a threat to peace in Northern Ireland.

“The prime minister’s proposals prove quite clearly that he does not understand Northern Ireland. While he seems to be perfectly happy to dance to the tune of his friends in the Democratic Unionist party, he forgets, or chooses to ignore, the fact – and it is a fact – that the DUP does not represent the majority of people in Northern Ireland,” she said

“I remind the prime minister that the people in Northern Ireland certainly do not want the UK to leave the EU without a deal. What people in Northern Ireland really want, all of them, is to continue to enjoy the peace and stability delivered by the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.”

Some of the 21 Conservative MPs Mr Johnson expelled last month expressed support for his plan and hardline Brexiteers Steve Baker and Mark Francois also suggested that they could back it. But Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would oppose it, pointing to the prime minister’s demand that Britain should no longer be bound by the same employment and environmental standards as the EU.

“Deal or no deal, this government’s agenda is clear: they want a Trump-deal Brexit. A Trump-deal Brexit that would crash our economy and rip away the standards that put a floor under people’s rights at work that protect our environment and protect our consumers. No Labour MP could support such a reckless deal that would be used as springboard to attack rights and standards in this country,” he said. 

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