Juncker reacts coolly to Johnson’s ‘problematic’ Brexit blueprint

Brussels has reacted coolly to Boris Johnson’s blueprint to break the Brexit deadlock with a plan that would see Northern Ireland effectively remain tied to EU single market rules for goods but leave the customs union.

Under his proposal, the arrangements would have to be approved by the currently suspended Northern Ireland Assembly, which would then vote every four years on whether to keep them.

In a letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker setting out his plan, Mr Johnson said he believed it represented a “reasonable compromise” to the issue of the Northern Ireland border.

However, after speaking to the Prime Minister by telephone, Mr Juncker said that while there had been some “positive advances” there remained “problematic points” particularly over the “governance of the backstop” which needed to be resolved.

Boris Johnson delivers his closing address to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester (Danny Lawson/PA)

In a statement, the commission said that Mr Juncker welcomed the proposals for “full regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the EU.

“However, the president also noted that there are still some problematic points that will need further work in the coming days, notably with regards to the governance of the backstop,” the statement said.

“The delicate balance struck by the Good Friday agreement must be preserved.”

The statement also expressed concern about the proposed customs rules, saying they still needed a “legally operational solution” to ensure there was no return of a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

In his letter, Mr Johnson said failure to reach an agreement ahead of Britain’s scheduled withdrawal from the EU on October 31 would represent “a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible”.

“Both sides now need to consider whether there is sufficient willingness to compromise and move beyond existing positions to get us to an agreement in time,” he said.

“We are ready to do that, and this letter sets out what I regard as a reasonable compromise: the broad landing zone in which I believe a deal can begin to take shape.”

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