PM’s ‘final offer’ to EU signals start of Brexit blame game

#Brexit special section Downing Street

Boris Johnson will deliver his “final offer” to the EU on Brexit today with a nine day ultimatum to Brussels to agree to his “two borders for four years” proposal.

The new Brexit plan was leaked to the Daily Telegraph ahead of Johnson’s first speech as prime minister to the Conservative party conference, and is being seen as the start of a blame game to try and force a no-deal.

According to the Telegraph, the proposals include a regulatory border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and VAT and customs checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Double border plan backed by DUP

The “double border” plan is for Northern Ireland to remain aligned to the EU’s single market rules for agriculture and industrial goods until 2025, whilst simultaneously leaving the EU customs union with the rest of the UK.

It is believed the proposal – reported by the Guardian to have gained the backing of Arlene Foster’s DUP – will give Northern Ireland’s political parties the decision on whether to align with the UK or continue in the EU single market.

Johnson has said the October 11 deadline for Brussels to agree to his proposals “should be enough”.

‘No basis for agreement’

Ireland and the EU have already denounced the plan – which will require a hard customs and VAT border on the island of Ireland – as unworkable while former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Hain suggested it could break the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Tánaiste (deputy PM), described the proposals as “concerning” saying there was “no basis for agreement”.

On Wednesday morning, Coveney said: “We want to see detailed proposals and we’ll make an assessment then. But certainly from what we’re reading this morning, I wouldn’t be too encouraged by it.

“Essentially, if he’s proposing customs checks on the island of Ireland I don’t think that’s going to be the basis of an agreement. But let’s wait and see the detail on that before we make a full judgment on it.”

Blame game to cast EU as villains

Given Ireland and the EU’s repeated opposition to the idea of any hard border on the island, the UK government’s proposals are being seen as a deliberate tactic to force Brussels to reject Downing Street’s plan.

The ploy is thus seen as the start of the blame game ahead of the widely anticipated UK general election campaign in which Johnson can cast the EU and Ireland as villains with hopes to convert soft-Leavers into accepting a no-deal Brexit.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief advisor has reportedly told senior colleagues the plan will make it “clear we won’t be hanging around waiting for them to negotiate with us. If they reject our offer, that’s it.”

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