Brexit: New deal or no deal, but no more delay

Following Boris' letter to EU negotiators and his statement in the Commons today there is greater clarity regarding a revised Withdrawal Agreement and how we can expect to leave the EU.

The policy of this government is to leave on 31 October. This new deal means we can leave then without disruption and in an amicable way. It is a reasonable compromise for all sides that respects the referendum.

Boris Johnson’s plan is to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.

Mr Johnson said the plan "removes the so-called backstop".

The backstop is the insurance policy negotiated by Theresa May and the EU. It is designed to avoid any physical border infrastructure, which it is feared would bring back memories of the Troubles, after Brexit.

It would keep the UK in the same customs territory as the EU, and Northern Ireland closely tied to EU regulations - until the UK and the EU reach a trade deal.

But it would stop the UK striking its own trade deals, which is why so many Conservative MPs, including Mr Johnson, oppose the backstop.

What is in the agreement?  

Under Mr Johnson's proposals for a new deal with the EU:

  1. Northern Ireland would leave the EU's customs union alongside the rest of the UK, at the start of 2021
  2. But Northern Ireland would, with the consent of politicians in the Northern Ireland Assembly, continue to apply EU legislation relating to agricultural and other products - what he calls an "all-island regulatory zone"
  3. This arrangement could, in theory, continue indefinitely, but the consent of Northern Ireland's politicians would have to be sought every four years
  4. Customs checks on goods traded between the UK and EU would be "decentralised", with paperwork submitted electronically and only a "very small number" of physical checks
  5. These checks should take place away from the border itself, at business premises or at "other points in the supply chain"

The government is also promising a "New Deal for Northern Ireland", with financial commitments to help manage the changes.

As the EU negotiators have said, more work is needed on the technical aspects of the alternative arrangements but I believe the PM when he says he wants a deal, I believe Brussels when they say the EU wants a deal and I believe parliamentary colleagues from opposition benches and my own also want a deal. The Government is showing good faith and I believe Brussels is too. The time will come for Parliament to show good faith. I want to leave with a deal, I've believe we can leave, with a deal, at the end of the month and I expect all of us to knuckle down and make it happen.

A new deal based on these principles will enable Britain to leave the EU in a friendly way. The referendum will be respected. The special arrangements for customs can be solved if all sides are prepared to compromise and show good will.

The Prime Minister will speak to key leaders now the Conservative Party Conference is over. Both sides will then have to judge whether it is possible to work out a detailed legal treaty over the next three weeks.

If the EU maintains the position that in effect Northern Ireland is never allowed to leave the Customs Union, then it is impossible to negotiate any deal – in which case there will be checks according to the Commission’s own logic. The UK has offered a compromise to avoid this situation.

If the EU ends negotiations by rejecting this last chance for a fair and reasonable compromise, then the government will focus on preparing to leave on 31 October. The government will not negotiate a delay at the EU Council on 17-18 October. Government policy is to oppose any further delay which would be extremely damaging for democratic politics and the economy.