The European Union has “grave concerns” about Boris Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal according to a new report by the European Parliament, in a major blow to the prime minister’s prospects of negotiating a new deal to leave the EU.
A report by the Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, drawn up following consultation with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, found multiple problems with the offer made by Johnson on Wednesday.
A draft seen by Sky News suggests that members have three central concerns with the proposals, on the question of the veto given to the Democratic Unionist Party, possible breaches of the single market, and the vagueness of Johnson’s proposals on how any new customs checks would work.
The Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said on Thursday that the proposals were “nearly impossible” to deliver.
“It’s very difficult — and nearly impossible,” he told Channel 4 News.
“Because it’s mainly repackaging the bad ideas that have already been floated in the past.”
The Irish government also dismissed the proposals on Thursday, with the deputy prime minister saying that the country “could not possibly” support them.
“We cannot support any proposal that suggests that one party or indeed a minority in Northern Ireland could make the decision for the majority in terms of how these proposals would be implemented in the future,” Simon Coveney told the Dáil.
“That is not consistent with the Good Friday Agreement. It is not something we could possibly support as part of any final deal.”
Johnson’s proposals have gathered some support from previous rebels in his own party as well as the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up his minority government.
However, they have received staunch opposition from all other parties in Northern Ireland, as well as all other opposition parties in the House of Commons.
The UK prime minister had been hoping to enter technical negotiations over the proposals. However, the EU has yet to agree to enter formal negotiations since the prime minister submitted his proposals on Wednesday.
What has Johnson offered the EU?
In the plan, sent to Juncker on Wednesday, there would be two new borders after Brexit: a customs border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
This is because the Northern Ireland would leave the customs union with the rest of the UK but continue to follow swathes of European single market rules covering agricultural and industrial goods.
This temporary arrangement would kick in at the end of the transition period in December 2020, should politicians in Northern Ireland’s democratic institutions — its government and parliament — vote in favour of it.
Northern Ireland’s politicians would then vote every four years whether to continue following those EU single market rules, or instead cut regulatory ties with Brussels and converge with the rest of the UK.
Northern Ireland has not had a functioning government or parliament since January 2017 when a row between the two largest parties — the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein — caused the institutions to collapse.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn the proposal was “worse than Theresa May’s deal.”
He added: “I can’t see it getting the support that he thinks it will get and it will take us into a regime in Britain of deregulation, of undercutting and I think will also undermine the Good Friday Agreement.”
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