Boris Johnson says his Brexit plan will not have checks at Irish border

By Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 1:03 p.m. ET, October 2, 2019
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1:03 p.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Our live coverage has ended. For full analysis of the day's events, click here.

12:44 p.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Labour says the government's new Brexit plan is worse than Theresa May's

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK opposition Labour Party, has said he does not think the Boris Johnson's Brexit plan will get EU support, claiming it is worse than the deal negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May.

“It's worse than Theresa May's deal," he told reporters. "I can't see it getting support that he thinks it will get and it will take us into a regime in Britain of deregulation, of undercutting, and I think also undermining the Good Friday agreement.”

The Labour Leader also said the proposal is “very unspecific on how the Good Friday agreement can be upheld.”

Jeremy Corbyn, opposition Labour Party leader
Jeremy Corbyn, opposition Labour Party leader

The 1998 Good Friday agreement ended decades of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. Its requirement that there be no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has been a major sticking point in the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU.

Corbyn added: “I'm sure he knows full well that what he's put forward is unlikely to be agreed. What he hasn't acknowledged is that he has a duty under the EU (No 2) Act, the act of parliament, that requires him to apply for an extension in the event of no agreement being reached.” 

12:16 p.m. ET, October 2, 2019

EU says "further work is needed"

The European Commission has said that while Boris Johnson's new proposal offers some "positive advances," "there are still some problematic points that will need further work in the coming days."

The Commission has released a statement following a phone call between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Commission's President Jean-Claude Juncker.

It said:

President Juncker welcomed Prime Minister Johnson's determination to advance the talks ahead of the October European Council and make progress towards a deal. He acknowledged the positive advances, notably with regards to the full regulatory alignment for all goods and the control of goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. However, the President also noted that there are still some problematic points that will need further work in the coming days, notably with regards to the governance of the backstop.

The Commission said that the "delicate balance struck by the Good Friday Agreement must be preserved." The 1998 peace deal that ended the decades-long conflict that claimed the lives of 3,000 people states there must not be any physical infrastructure at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The statement also said:

Another concern that needs to be addressed are the substantive customs rules. He also stressed that we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU's Single Market and Ireland's place in it.

The statement stressed the "EU wants a deal."

"We remain united and ready to work 24/7 to make this happen – as we have been for over three years now," it said.

It added that meetings between the UK and EU are expected to take place over the coming days.

11:40 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Arch-Brexiteer says Johnson's plan is "like putting your head in a crocodile's mouth"

Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit party and the loudest of all Brexiteers, has added his two cents to the debate about Boris Johnson's new proposals.

Farage is hoping that some disillusioned Brexit-supporting Conservative voters will switch to the Brexit Party in the next general election.

On Wednesday, he delivered a stark rebuke to Johnson's plan, saying it provides no guarantee the UK will leave the customs union.

11:36 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Opposition is not impressed

The leaders of British opposition parties have expressed doubts that Boris Johnson's new Brexit proposals will go down well in Brussels.

Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP, said she believes the plan might have been designed to fail.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky the new plan was "not acceptable" and "worse" than what Johnson's predecessor Theresa May proposed.

11:37 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Plan promises a "new deal for Northern Ireland"

Boris Johnson desperately needs to sell his proposal to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Northern Irish party that was propping up his government in Parliament until he lost his majority last month.

The DUP's main purpose is keeping Northern Ireland inside the United Kingdom. It campaigned for Brexit, but its members have since said that keeping the union together is more important than leaving the EU.

In the letter, Johnson appears to hint his proposal will come with a sweetener for the DUP:

This Government proposes a New Deal for Northern Ireland, with appropriate commitments to help boost economic growth and Northern Ireland's competitiveness, and to support infrastructure projects, particularly with a cross-border focus."

The letter also says that Northern Ireland will have a say in how the proposal will work in practice:

We are proposing that the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly should have the opportunity to endorse those arrangements before they enter into force."

The DUP is used to getting sweet deals. Boris Johnson's predecessor Theresa May struck a "confidence and supply agreement" with the party, promising Northern Ireland £1 billion ($1.2 billion) in funding in exchange for the 10 MPs from Northern Ireland supporting her minority government.

That deal is set to expire at the end of this Parliament.

DUP indicated on Wednesday it would back the proposal. In a statement, it said the plan is consistent with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, at the Conservative Party Conference.
Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, at the Conservative Party Conference. Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

11:07 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Irish PM: New Brexit proposal is "not promising"

From CNN's Lauren Kent and Lindsay Isaac

The Brexit proposal put forward by Boris Johnson to the EU “does not look promising so far from what we have heard," according to the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

Varadkar said Johnson needs to “listen to the people of Northern Ireland, who did not vote for Brexit” and do not want physical checks.

Varadkar said he will speak to Johnson later Wednesday.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar isn't too impressed with the new proposal.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar isn't too impressed with the new proposal. Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

10:54 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Read the PM's letter to European leaders

Here is the first part of the letter that Boris Johnson sent to the EU on Wednesday:

There is now very little time in which to negotiate a new Agreement between the UK and the EU under Article 50. We need to get this done before the October European Council.
This Government wants to get a deal, as I am sure we all do. If we cannot reach one, it would represent a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible. Our predecessors have tackled harder problems: we can surely solve this one.

Boris Johnson has made a new offer to the EU.
Boris Johnson has made a new offer to the EU. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Both sides now need to consider whether there is sufficient willingness to compromise and move beyond existing positions to get us to an agreement in time. We are ready to do that, and this letter sets out what I regard as a reasonable compromise: the broad landing zone in which I believe a deal can begin to take shape.

Read the full letter here.

11:07 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Northern Ireland to be part of UK customs territory

From CNN's Lauren Kent and Lindsay Isaac in London

Johnson's proposal envisions Northern Ireland being part of the UK customs territory after Brexit.

That would keep it out of the EU single market after the transition period.

“It has always been a fundamental point for this Government that the UK will leave the EU customs union at the end of the transition period. We must do so whole and entire. Control of trade policy is fundamental to our future vision.”

The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will be a customs border. That does not mean that customs checks and controls need to take place at, or even near, that border. Instead, we are making a proposal which ensures that no customs controls necessary to ensure compliance with the UK and EU customs regimes will take place at or near the border. This system will be underpinned by continuing close cooperation between UK and Irish authorities."