Boris Johnson grilled on Brexit plan

By Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 12:06 p.m. ET, October 3, 2019
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11:00 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019

EU says it stands behind Ireland

European Council President Donald Tusk has spoken to both Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson on Thursday.

Tusk once again stressed the EU was united behind Ireland. This is crucial: Ireland is a small member state and the circumstances make it vulnerable. It needs support from Brussels and the biggest member states, including Germany and France.

Ireland is the only state with a land border with the UK. That border was at the center of a decades-long conflict between Northern Ireland and Ireland; now it's at the center of the Brexit deadlock.

10:55 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019

Hard-core Brexiteers also don't like it

Here is a reminder that it's not just the opposition and the EU who seem fairly pessimistic about Boris Johnson's new Brexit proposals.

Hard-core Brexiteers, led by Nigel Farage, are also criticizing the plan, calling it "Fake Brexit."

Farage and his Brexit Party would prefer the UK to leave the European Union without a deal -- an event economists say would hurt the UK economy.

10:04 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019

MEPs say new proposals "do not address the real issues"

European Parliament's Brexit Steering group has said the Brexit proposal presented to the EU by Boris Johnson "do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop."

The EU Parliament said Johnson's proposals do not address the main issues.
The EU Parliament said Johnson's proposals do not address the main issues. Photo: GERARD CERLES/AFP/Getty Images
The BSG does not find these last-minute proposals of the UK government of 2 October, in their current form, represent a basis for an agreement to which the European Parliament could give consent. The proposals do not address the real issues that need to be resolved if the backstop were to be removed, namely the all-island economy, the full respect of the Good Friday Agreement and the integrity of the Single Market."

Europe's chief negotiator Michel Barnier met the members of European Parliament's Brexit Steering group on Thursday, to brief them on Boris Johnson's latest proposals.

9:48 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019

Irish PM pours cold water on Johnson's plan

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Boris Johnson's Brexit plans "fall short in a number of aspects."

Varadkar said he failed to see how, under the proposal, Northern Ireland and Ireland could operate under different customs regimes without customs posts.

"No one party should be able to block the majority view on the island," he said, referring to the fact that the plan seems to be aimed at pleasing the DUP.

 "Any consent mechanism and democracy mechanism must reflect the views of the majority of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland," said the Taoiseach.

Leo Varadkar said there was a contradiction between Johnson's words and what was in the submitted papers.
Leo Varadkar said there was a contradiction between Johnson's words and what was in the submitted papers. Photo: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Varadkar pointed out a contradiction in Johnson's statements.

"I’m reassured by what PM Johnson said, that he’s not proposing that there’ll be any new physical infrastructure on the island of Ireland linked to customs or custom checks. But that is actually in contradiction to the papers presented by the UK Gov yesterday."

Johnson's proposals mention the need for a small number of physical checks.

Here's where the semantics come to play.

While a "small number" "away from the border" means "no new checks" to Johnson, it seems to mean something completely different to Varadkar.

"We do not want to see any customs posts between north and south, nor do we want to see any tariffs or restrictions on trade between north and south," he said.

8:32 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019

Johnson accused of throwing businesses in Northern Ireland "under the bus"

The Liberal Democrats' Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake, tweeted that manufacturers in Northern Ireland have said they are being "thrown under the bus" by Boris Johnson's plans, and have described them as "an existential threat."

8:22 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019

Irish deputy PM says if Johnson's offer is "final" there will be no deal

In Ireland, meanwhile, things are not looking great for Boris Johnson's latest proposal.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister, or Tanaiste, Simon Coveney, has said that if the plan is Johnson's final proposal, then there will be no deal.

Coveney said that "Ireland has not been treated well" during the Brexit process so far.

7:58 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019

Businesses worry about more uncertainty

Angela McGowan, the head of the CBI Northern Ireland, a business lobby, said the proposal could lead to more uncertainty for businesses across Ireland and Northern Ireland.

That's because under the plan, the rules would be reviewed periodically in order to make sure people in Northern Ireland agree with them.

McGowan said:

“Reviewing trading arrangements every four years will make an already tough environment for investors even more difficult. 
With time ticking away and no deal nudging ever closer, talks between the UK and EU need to produce clarity – and fast."

Northern Irish businesses are worried about more uncertainty.
Northern Irish businesses are worried about more uncertainty. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

7:45 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019

The atmosphere is much calmer in Parliament

The topic is crucial, the opinions are divisive. But the tone in which the discussion is taking place in Parliament on Thursday is calm, at least compared to the circus of the past few weeks.

Just last week, a furious Boris Johnson shouted at his opponents, using words like "surrender" and "betray." The opposition was talking about a "coup."

Johnson even dismissed as "humbug" the concerns of one MP, Paula Sherriff, who asked him to recall the politically motivated murder three years ago of a Labour lawmaker, Jo Cox.

On Thursday, everyone appeared to have taken their foot off the gas a little -- much to the relief of Speaker John Bercow, who has lost his voice.

The atmosphere is calmer in Parliament.
The atmosphere is calmer in Parliament. Photo: Parliament TV/House of Commons