PM Boris Johnson addresses Parliament on new Brexit Plan; Ireland, Europe respond

By Elise Kennedy

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has addressed Parliament on his new Brexit plan focusing on his plan for the Irish backstop.

If the UK is to leave the EU without a deal Johnson says that all parties would be responsible for a no deal. 

Johnson said that staying in the current Brexit extension period after 31 October would be leaving the UK in a “prison of existing positions”, which he said he wants to get out of.

Repeating the Conservative party conference  mantra of “Get Brexit Done” was a strong feature of his address, which was a large part of the conference from earlier this week.

His plans to change former Prime Minister Theresa May’s Irish backstop plan with a “potential regularity zone” which would mean having no custom checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson said that is should be voted on in the Northern Irish Assembly after the UK leaves the negotiation period. This is in hopes to sustain the Good Friday Agreement.

The Prime Minister said that he wants to move attention to more domestic issues including the NHS and education.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party  said that the deal is “reckless” and its not “credible”. Saying that it attacks the “rights and standards” of all UK citizens, adding that the Prime Minister is trying to “shift the blame” to the whole of Parliament for not reaching a deal.

Saying that the plan to scrap the Irish Backstop, that Theresa May had in her original Withdrawl Agreement,  would negatively impact Northern Ireland’s small businesses and therefore the economy in Northern Ireland. Corbyn stressed that Northern Irish businesses needs are protected, in the new deal.

Corbyn argues that by extending the negotiation deadline would allow  time for “serious negotiations” and if we leave on 31 October with a no deal would damage UK living standards.

Johnson argued that staying in the negotiation stage is not an option as stating in this phase would “incur another billion pounds to stay after 31 October”.

Johnson ended his rebuttal to Corbyn by saying that it is a “good basis for a deal”.

The response from Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister of Nothern Ireland, Leo Varadkar, says Johnson’s Brexit plan “falls short in some aspects.”

Speaking at press conference in Sweden with the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofvan, Varadkar insists there should no custom check points, and he is “reassured” that Boris Johnson said there would not be any, contradicting what was said in a proposal from the UK government yesterday.

The Northern Irish Prime Minister clarified his aims when it comes to Brexit: “Our objective is very clear we do not want to see any custom posts between north and south” which were all abolished in the 1999 Good Friday Agreement, and he wishes that it stays that way.

The Swedish Prime Minister also said at the conference that “Sweden stands with Northern Ireland,” when it comes to the issues regarding Brexit.

The response from Europe

The European Parliament has said that Johnson’s Brexit proposals are not “even remotely” acceptable, when it comes to the Irish border issue.

In a press release, the members of the Brexit Steering Group say that the latest proposals “do not address the real issues that need to be resolved, namely the all – island economy, the full respect of the Good Friday Agreement and the integrity of the Single Market.”

This falls in line with what Varadkar and Northern Ireland’s response.

The European Parliament added that they are still open to explore all options as long as they are “credible, legally operable, and in practise have the same effect as the compromises found in the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Donald Tusk, President for the of the European Council, has said that he “unconvinced” with Johnson’s plans and he fully supports Ireland.

While the Irish Europe Minister, Helen McEntee, while speaking at Dublin Port said that Ireland does not feel under pressure to change their key objectives which includes “protecting the Good Friday Agreement, to prevent border infrastructure on the island of Ireland, protecting the economy and the single market, and Ireland’s place in it.”

 

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