Brexit: Johnson to reveal proposal for revised exit deal

British PM to tell EU that reworked withdrawal agreement Britain’s final offer

British prime minister Boris Johnson will unveil Britain's proposal for a revised withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, telling the European Union it is Britain's final offer.

Mr Johnson will sketch out the plan in his closing speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester before officials present new legal text to EU negotiators in Brussels.

“The government is either going to be negotiating a new deal or working on no deal – nobody will work on delay. We will keep fighting to respect the biggest democratic vote in British history. The EU is obliged by EU law only to negotiate with member state governments, they cannot negotiate with parliament, and this government will not negotiate delay,” a senior Downing Street official said.

The British proposal is expected to include an expanded offer on regulatory alignment across the island of Ireland to include industrial goods as well as agri-foods. But Mr Johnson made clear on Tuesday that he envisaged two separate customs territories, adding that checks somewhere in Ireland were "a reality" after Brexit.

He blamed the European Union for any customs checks that might be introduced and said that checks on goods crossing the Border in Ireland would be preferable to a customs border in the Irish Sea.

“Just to set this in context for you, it’s important to understand that trade North-South of the Border is dwarfed by trade East-West, from Northern Ireland to GB. So it would be wrong to, as it were, to keep Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU and to create new checks down the Irish Sea for customs,” he told the BBC.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government will not agree to any new Brexit deal which involves customs checks, telling the Dáil that checks would only be inevitable if Britain left the EU without a deal.

“We will never sign up to checks as part of a deal,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said any proposal to erect customs posts would be “hard evidence” of bad faith on the part of the British government.

“In December 2017, the British government promised Ireland and the European Union that there would be no hard border as a consequence of Brexit and no physical infrastructure or associated controls or checks. We expect the British government to honour that commitment, made in good faith in the withdrawal agreement,” he said.

‘Reasonable compromise’

In his speech to the Conservative party conference on Wednesday, Mr Johnson will describe the British offer as “a fair and reasonable compromise” that has the potential to resolve the Brexit impasse.

“Voters are desperate for us to focus on their other priorities – what people want, what leavers want, what remainers want, what the whole world wants – is to move on. That is why we are coming out of the EU on October 31st. Let’s get Brexit done – we can, we must and we will,” he will say.

“My friends, I am afraid that after 3½ years people 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. And if they turn out to be right in that suspicion then I believe there will be grave consequences for trust in democracy.”

Dublin on Tuesday night downplayed reports that EU leaders could agree to a time limit on the backstop, a proposal that has been repeatedly rejected.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times