Boris Johnson on Thursday (3 October) defended his plans to replace the Irish backstop as an attempt to “bridge the chasm” and strike a Brexit deal.
Using the conciliatory tone and repeated references to “our European friends” that marked a distinct change from previous weeks in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister told lawmakers that the plans “represent a compromise”, adding that “we have tried to bridge the chasm and go the extra mile as time runs short.”
The UK government has proposed a new protocol to replace the Irish backstop involving the temporary creation of a temporary regulatory zone that would involve Northern Ireland continuing to continue to apply EU legislation relating to agricultural and industrial goods. The backstop is an insurance policy designed to avoid the return of a hard border
The ‘temporary regulatory zone’ would be in place until 2025 and be subject to the consent of the Northern Ireland executive and assembly.
The Johnson government is also planning to demand amendments to the Political Declaration which accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement, in talks with the EU in the coming days.
“I do not resile from the fact that we have shown great flexibility,” said Johnson.
In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed the plans as “a re-hashed version of previously rejected proposals” which would amount to “two borders with Ireland”.
The plans have received a lukewarm reaction from the Irish government and the European Commission.
Irish Deputy Prime Minister, Simon Coveney, has said there will be no deal if the latest plan put forward by the UK is the “final proposal”.
“There are problematic points in the United Kingdom’s proposal and further work is needed. But that work needs to be done by the United Kingdom and not the other way around,” Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told reporters on Thursday.