At last, four weeks from the Brexit Date, we know what Boris Johnson considers to be a good withdrawal deal. The task now for the EU, media, parliamentarians and punters, is to decide whether it has any realistic chance of success.
The PM laid out his plan to the Tory party conference yesterday, hours after the EU received the first draft. Check out this BBC analysis for the full details but in short, Johnson has proposed an alternative to the Irish backstop that would involve customs checks away from the border, and leave Northern Ireland at least temporarily in the single market, whilst mainland Britain leaves it.
Ireland unlikely to be convinced
Today PM @BorisJohnson has set out a fair and reasonable compromise for replacing the backstop so we can get Brexit done by 31 October.
Read the PM’s letter to the EU ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/JgFLpoNjUx
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) October 2, 2019
While the EU have acknowledged it to be a serious proposal, the early indications are not promising for an imminent deal. It is very unlikely to be acceptable to Ireland – countering the spirit and probably letter of the Good Friday Agreement. Nor does it address EU concerns about smuggling and lacks detailed proposals regarding technological solutions.
Jonathan Powell, Chief of Staff to the Tony Blair government and key architect of the Northern Ireland peace process, could not have been more damning about the plan’s workability and the PM’s good faith.
A hard border undermines the basis of the Good Friday Agreement – Jonathan Powell told us in August.
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) October 1, 2019
Johnson plan smacks of an electoral ploy
These developments have not altered the view I’ve been laying out for months – that this is merely political theatre intended for a domestic audience – to blame the EU when no deal can be reached, for ‘instransigence’. Buzzfeed report that Tory ministers are already being told to call the EU ‘crazy’.
The Irish solution is anything but that and might actually represent the worst of all worlds. It creates an extra border with the UK, ignores those complaints about breaking the GFA but ensures the NI Assembly will get a say every four years. A repeat incident liable to trigger a divided island into sectarianism and making a unity poll extremely likely. I expect the EU to retain their commitment to solidarity with Ireland, who will reject it.