European Union presses UK to resubmit Brexit plan as end-game looms

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is determined to take his country out of the European Union at the end of this month. 

Published: 05th October 2019 07:34 PM  |   Last Updated: 05th October 2019 07:34 PM   |  A+A-

Representational Image for Brexit

Representational Image for Brexit (File | Reuters)


BRUSSELS: EU and UK officials are to resume talks Monday on Britain's plans for a managed Brexit after a weekend hiatus during which London was under pressure to revise its proposals.

The European Commission is adamant that, as they stand, "the UK proposals do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement".

That grates with Britain's government, which considers the proposals it submitted on Wednesday to be "a fair and reasonable compromise".

After hours-long talks in Brussels on Friday failed to move the dial, a UK spokesman said: "We want a deal and talks continue on Monday on the basis of our offer."

Time is running short for the two sides to close the gap. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is determined to take his country out of the European Union at the end of this month. 

An October 17-18 EU summit is to determine whether Britain is headed for a Brexit deal, no-deal, or an extension.

READ| Lessons from a landmark Brexit verdict

But European diplomats emphasise that London needs to offer revised, viable proposals within days and certainly before the end of next week, so any haggling and legalistic work is done before the summit.

"Everything must move very quickly and any negotiation has to start at the beginning of next week," one diplomat told AFP. "We will evaluate next Friday whether it's been possible to bring the positions closer." 

Although Johnson has called his Brexit proposals a broad "landing zone" the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his team are unsure how far Britain will budge. 

The EU refuses to characterise the talks held so far as negotiations, underlining a preference to stick with a Brexit withdrawal agreement that was struck with Johnson's predecessor Theresa May but rejected three times by British MPs.

The main sticking point is a "backstop" for Northern Ireland.

That is meant to guarantee no border springs up between the British territory and EU member Ireland, threatening a hard-won peace accord, while also maintaining the integrity of the EU's single market.

Britain's current idea for an alternative to the backstop -- which would see all the UK, or at least Northern Ireland, remaining in the EU's customs union -- is for untried technology to remove the need for most but not all border checks, and for EU standards on goods to continue to apply in Northern Ireland to facilitate trade.

The border plan is not acceptable for the EU. It sees the potential for rampant smuggling, especially as Johnson intends for the rest of the UK to diverge from EU labour, environmental and tax norms to aim for a regulation-lite economy on Europe's doorstep. 

Nor does the EU agree with a proposal that Northern Ireland's assembly be given a right to effectively veto the post-Brexit customs arrangement.

If either of those two proposals are red lines for Johnson, it is hard to see the EU moving talks into the negotiation phase.

Yet if he bends on them, he risks losing tenuous support in the UK parliament to maybe pass a Brexit deal, reliant on 10 Democratic Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland and hard-core Brexit MPs in his Conservative Party.

If thwarted, Johnson's best bet may lie with early elections.

There he also faces a challenge, with the UK parliament having passed a law requiring him to seek a Brexit extension from the EU by October 19 if he has not reached a deal by then.

British media speculated that Johnson might seek to sabotage any extension request he is forced to make against his will.

One path included his ministers asking an EU member state to block the unanimous approval needed for an extension, with Hungary cited as a likely ally to break EU ranks.

But Budapest denied Britain had approached it with such a request, and a Hungarian foreign ministry source told AFP: "To date there is no request for a delay, hence there is no point in speculating about anything."

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp