Take it or leave it, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the European Union on Wednesday, offering the bloc his final Brexit deal. And if the European Union leaves it, then the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU on October 31 without a deal.
“We are tabling what I believe are constructive and reasonable proposals which provide a compromise for both sides,” Johnson said. “Let us be in no doubt that the alternative is no deal.”
Johnson's five-point final plan, outlined in his letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, includes the following provisions:
• Respecting the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.
• A commitment to longstanding areas of UK-Ireland collaboration.
• Creating an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland,
covering all goods including agri-food.
• Giving the Northern Ireland executive and assembly the opportunity to endorse the new regulatory arrangements before they enter into force.
• Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory, not
the EU customs union, after the end of the transition period.
One of the main sticking points in the elusive Brexit deal is the "backstop" intended to prevent a hard border that could lead to renewed sectarian violence in Ireland. Johnson said under his plan there would be no checks at the Irish border and that London would respect the 1998 Good Friday agreement.
Reuters reported the EU's reception to Johnson's offer as rather "cool." The European commission noted "positive advances" in his plan, but there are some "problematic points that will need further work in the coming days."
Still, "we can, we must, and we will" leave the EU, Johnson pledged.
But Brits have heard that before, from the last prime minister. Theresa May returned from Brussels last year with a deal that satisfied neither Labour MPs nor Conservatives, and Parliament rejected it an historic three times. What followed was May's swift exit from 10 Downing Street, and the UK nowhere closer to reaching a compromise with the EU.
According to the Labour Party, Johnson's latest offer is even "worse" than his predecessor's.
When I visited the UK last month I found that no Brit I talked to had any clue how this thing would pan out. Brexit has kept the country on edge since the June 2016 referendum and it all appeared to come to a head last month in the House of Commons when Speaker John Bercow said he'd be stepping down. Here's a glimpse.