Brexit: Boris Johnson to give EU ‘take it or leave it’ ultimatum after Irish outrage at border plan

Prime minister to repeat his vow to take UK out of EU on Halloween with or without a deal

Andrew Woodcock,Jon Stone
Tuesday 01 October 2019 22:08
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Boris Johnson says he has ‘solution’ to secure Brexit deal by deadline

Boris Johnson will lay down a “take it or leave it” ultimatum to Brussels on Wednesday, warning he will take the UK out of the European Union without a deal if it is rejected.

If the EU is unwilling to “engage” with the final offer, there will be no further negotiation and Britain will leave without a deal in 29 days’ time on 31 October, said Downing Street.

The prime minister will spell out details of what he describes as a “fair and reasonable compromise” in his keynote speech to the Conservative conference in Manchester.

And he will make clear he is ready to defy legislation that requires him to extend negotiations to January if he fails to seal a deal, warning that there will be “grave consequences for trust in democracy” if Brexit is delayed again.

A senior No 10 official said: “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.”

Reports suggested that the UK offer included provisions for Northern Ireland to follow EU single market rules for agricultural and industrial goods for four years after the end of the expected transition period in 2021, during which Britain would be expected to diverge from the EU.

According to accounts of the offer obtained by the Daily Telegraph, Northern Ireland would at the end of that four-year period in 2025 be free either to move closer to Great Britain’s trading arrangements at the cost of a harder border with the Republic, or continue with the existing arrangement.

Labour MP Paul Williams, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum, said Mr Johnson was determined to “force an undemocratic and destructive vision of Brexit on the country”.

Sources in Brussels suggested that chief negotiator Michel Barnier would give short shrift to any offer that breached the negotiating mandate agreed by the remaining 27 EU states.

“If the concrete text is rubbish, I think Mr Barnier will not need much time to say that,” said one EU diplomat.

EU and UK negotiators have not yet entered the period known as the “tunnel” leading up to a deal, when final details are thrashed out in intensive last-minute meetings conducted in conditions of strict secrecy.

“I haven’t seen a tunnel, and I’ve never even seen the signs that we are heading towards the tunnel,” said one diplomat.

The new legal text to be handed over shortly after Mr Johnson’s speech is thought to include the £39bn financial settlement agreed by Theresa May, along with protections for expat EU and UK citizens, but to demand the scrapping of the proposed “backstop” for the Irish border.

After Dublin’s horrified reaction to UK proposals for customs checkpoints five to 10 miles from the Irish frontier, Mr Johnson has said there will be no physical border infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

In a shift from Theresa May’s promise to avoid “checks and controls” in Ireland, he said customs checks would be needed on both sides of the border, but indicated that these could happen at the premises of exporters and importers.

And he said he had made “big concessions” on an all-Ireland regulatory zone on food and agricultural products.

Speaking in Manchester, Mr Johnson will say: “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 31. Let’s get Brexit done – we can, we must and we will.”

He will contrast his plans to draw a swift line under Brexit with Labour’s alternative of securing an extension to Brexit talks and then going into an election on a platform of renegotiating Brexit before putting it to a referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn’s plan would turn 2020 into a year of “chaos and cacophony” with potentially two referendums, on EU membership and Scottish independence, the prime minister will claim.

Mr Johnson will warn that, three years on from the 2016 vote to quit the EU, voters were “beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools”.

The prime minister gets caught in the rain in Manchester

“They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all,” he will say. “And if they turn out to be right in that suspicion then I believe there will be grave consequences for trust in democracy.

“Let’s get Brexit done on October 31 so in 2020 our country can move on.”

Dr Williams said: “All the circus, sideshow and now serious questions over behaviour that surround Boris Johnson should not allow him to escape attention over the reality of his determination to force an undemocratic and destructive vision of Brexit on the country.

“He can say nothing coherent and credible on Ireland. He offers nothing to those worried about the supply of medicines and the price of fresh food. And he blithely ignores all the risks to our security that no-deal means.

“In short, we cannot trust Boris Johnson on Brexit. Instead, let us trust the people in a Final Say referendum. Only a people’s vote offers a fair and democratic way out of the crisis.”

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