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 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.
The EU’s main concern is an aspect of the Ireland protocol which commits both sides to never introducing checks on the 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.
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.
Johnson has repeatedly said that, while he will abide by the law, Britain is leaving on 31 October 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 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.
“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.”
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 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.”
Cameron also said 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 19 October.
“You can’t disobey the law as prime minister,” he said.
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