British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday officially presented his new Brexit deal at the House of Commons after its publication a day earlier.
Johnson argued that the new plan is a “compromise,” saying the government has “gone the extra mile” with the hope of striking a deal with the EU.
Conceding to the obvious, that the U.K. and the EU are still “some way off” from a resolution, Johnson described his first contacts on the new deal with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Johnson said the U.K. has shown “great flexibility,” and it expects the same flexibility from the EU, but if they fail, the U.K. would leave the bloc without a deal on Oct. 31.
Johnson’s new deal proposes Northern Ireland remain aligned with the EU customs arrangements for goods including agri-food through 2025.
Under the deal, customs checks would be done away from the border area on the island of Ireland, but there would be a customs border between the U.K. and Northern Ireland.
The deal also proposes giving the devolved Northern Ireland government — which has yet to be formed since a 2017 election — the right to decide whether to continue with the arrangement or abandon it.
The backstop clause of the previous withdrawal agreement, which was repeatedly rejected by Britain’s parliament, will be replaced by the new proposals if the deal is accepted.
The backstop was designed to keep the U.K. in the same customs territory as the EU as well as Northern Ireland closely tied to EU regulations until a solution is found to the border issues.
It was categorically rejected by the Democratic Unionist Party — the biggest political party in Northern Ireland, and currently the de facto partner of the Tory government in Westminster.
Johnson’s new plan, however, was immediately rejected by all opposition parties.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called it a “rehashed” version of plans that has already been rejected, branding it worse than the oft-rejected plans of Theresa May, Johnson’s predecessor.
Adding that Johnson’s plans are “not serious or workable,” Corbyn said they would “undermine the Good Friday agreement” in Ireland and lead to a “race to the bottom” on workers’ rights.
Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party leader at Westminster, blasted Johnson’s plans as “unworkable, unacceptable and undeliverable.”
Varadkar has already described the new deal as a “non-starter,” telegraphing Ireland’s veto.
The EU has repeatedly said any deal not approved by Dublin would not be accepted by the bloc. It also has said that they would not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement’s backstop clause.
U.K. and the EU officials are set to meet during the next European Council summit on Oct. 17-18.
The U.K. is set to leave the bloc on Oct. 31.
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