Closed Boris Johnson unveils his Brexit plan – as it happened

Boris_speech_montage

UK prime minister will start preparing for a no-deal departure if EU rejects his Brexit proposal


Live from Manchester for the Tory party conference

Welcome back. The Financial Times’ live blogging team returns as Boris Johnson prepares to address his party faithful this morning in Manchester.

The prime minister is expected to make a “final offer” to Brussels on Wednesday morning to end the Brexit deadlock, insisting in a speech to the Conservative party conference that his plan is a “reasonable compromise” and offers the last chance to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit. Mr Johnson is due to speak at 11:40am.

The final day of the conference looks like this:

10:00am: Panel on strengthening the union with Alister Jack, Julian Smith and Alun Cairns
10:45am: Panel with Baroness Evans, Victoria Atkins, Maria Miller and Gillian Keegan
11:40am: Speech by Boris Johnson


Tory party chair says UK will leave at end of October ‘whatever’

James Cleverly, Tory party chair, said on Radio 4′s Today programme that “if we can’t get a deal over the line at this point we are going to leave without a deal”.

He added: “We are going to leave on 31st October whatever.”

Mr Cleverly added that “negotiations of this complexity … always always go to the 11th hour”.

The UK over the last 18 months or so has been pragmatic and it has been flexible. What we need to see now is the EU being flexible

The Northern Ireland backstop, which aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland once the UK leaves the EU, Mr Cleverly called “unacceptable” as it was previously structured.

He said how ever the situation is resolved it must be done “with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. The peace and prosperity of the Good Friday Agreement must be protected and must be supported.”


Make or break time

George Parker reports from Manchester:

The prime minister’s allies have said the proposal to be sent to Brussels this afternoon has “evolved significantly” in the past 24 hours and that if the EU rejects it, the UK will break off talks and start preparing for a no-deal exit.

Under the plan, set to be published at 4pm today, Britain is prepared to extend EU regulation to industrial goods in Northern Ireland to ease trade flows across the border with the Republic, on top of Mr Johnson’s existing plan to create a single all-Ireland zone for animal and food health checks. 

However, the proposal does nothing to address the crucial issue of customs controls, and Mr Johnson has put himself on a collision course with the EU by insisting that Northern Ireland must leave the bloc’s customs union in any deal. 

Prospects for a deal suffered a serious blow last night when British officials blamed the Irish government for leaking the plan.

Sir Edward Lister, Mr Johnson’s chief of staff, gave Dublin an advanced sight of the plan on Tuesday, adding to Number 10′s fury about the leak. No other EU capital was briefed ahead of its intended publication later today.


Sterling edges lower with focus on UK Brexit plan

Sterling was heading lower ahead of Mr Johnson’s conference speech, with investors focused on the likelihood of the prime minister striking a deal with the EU over the Irish border.

The pound was recently 0.3 per cent lower against the US dollar, at $1.2272.

Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid said “today could be the beginning of the end for any hopes of a deal ahead of the EU council meeting in two weeks” given that there are early signs the UK proposals will receive a frosty reception in Dublin and Brussels.


Deal, no-deal, delay

Check out George Parker’s excellent analysis of the three potential Brexit outcomes that are on the cards.

The prime minister’s team say a deal is by far the best scenario, not just from an economic point of view but also because it would help the Conservatives win the next general election.

As a second best outcome, Boris Johnson is still willing to countenance a no-deal Brexit, and Downing Street is modelling such a scenario even though it admits this would be highly disruptive for the economy.

The prime minister’s team gives the impression that it has a plan to “cheat” the legislation intended to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

If this fails, they would be left with the third and worst possible outcome – a Brexit delay. Government insiders say this would leave the country in a very dangerous place, with outrage from Brexit supporters potentially erupting into violence.

You can read George’s full analysis here


Irish deputy PM: ‘I wouldn’t be too encouraged’

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said he is not encouraged by the details of the UK’s Brexit plan which have emerged overnight.

In a clip broadcast on Sky News, Mr Coveney said there is unlikely to be a deal if the UK is proposing customs checks anywhere on the island of Ireland.

We want to wait and see a detailed proposal and we will obviously make an assessment of it then. But certainly, from what we are reading this morning I wouldn’t be too encouraged by it. Essentially if he is proposing customs checks on the island of Ireland then I don’t think that is going to be the basis of an agreement, but let’s wait and see the detail of that before we make a full judgement on it.


Johnson preparing his conference speech last night


Brexit on the fringes of the Conservative party conference

FT Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne gets behind the scenes at the Manchester conference to see if the party faithful will support a compromise to ‘get Brexit done.’

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Johnson: Ten days to negotiate a deal

The Sun has published an interview with the prime minister, conducted on the eve of his first speech to the Tory conference as leader.

In it, Boris Johnson says there is a 10-day timetable to negotiate a new deal with the EU:

“Ten days should be enough. If there’s a deal to be done, it could be done in that time. Genuinely. If there isn’t, then we’ll know. That’s the truth.”

Asked whether he was prepared to consider a counter-offer from Brussels, the prime minister said: “Well, we’ll look at anything, of course.”

Away from Brexit, the prime minister also hinted his government planned tax cuts in any upcoming Budget.


Tories in line for Boris Johnson’s speech

Just over an hour to go before the prime minister speaks and Conservative party members are patiently queuing to get into the conference centre in Manchester to listen to what he has to say.


Meanwhile in Brussels…

Here is how today is set to pan out on the EU side, via RTÉ’s Europe editor, Tony Connelly:

Crucially, after the UK’s proposals are formally presented, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will have to decide whether there is a basis for serious negotiations.


What kind of deal would Tory eurosceptics accept?

Boris Johnson will still need to get any fresh Brexit deal through parliament, even if he is able to strike an agreement with the EU.

In this scenario, the votes of the hardcore band of eurosceptics in the Tory party could be critical – they shot down Theresa May’s deal three times.

Mark Francois, deputy chairman of the European Research Group, has just been speaking to the BBC.

He said he has not seen details of the proposals, but that the ERG would take into account “quite strongly” what Northern Ireland’s DUP think.

He said the other “acid test” is: “Do they mean we genuinely leave the EU? If they do, then we will support them.”


Johnson prepares to deliver conference speech

Here’s where we stand with an hour to go until Boris Johnson is expected to make his first speech to party conference as Conservative leader:

• The speech is a key moment in the Brexit process. He is expected to make a ‘final offer’ to end the deadlock over the Irish border question.

• The prime minister’s allies claim the UK will break off talks if the proposal is rejected in Brussels and Dublin.

• The Irish government has said that if the UK proposes customs checks on the island of Ireland then there will not be a deal.

• Ireland’s deputy PM Simon Coveney said: “From what we are reading this morning I wouldn’t be too encouraged.”


A year on from Theresa May’s ‘Dancing Queen’

It has been a long year in British politics since Theresa May danced onto stage to Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ in what turned out to be her final speech to conference as Tory party leader.

Then, she urged her warring party to unite behind a Brexit deal and look forward to a bright 2019: “Even if we do not all agree on every part of the proposal, we need to come together.”

By January, eurosceptic Tories had tried to depose her and the Brexit deal she had agreed with the EU had begun to fall apart in the UK parliament. One year on, Boris Johnson is making his own final push for a deal.

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Sterling and stocks on the decline

Sterling fell 0.5 per cent against the dollar, which could lead to its worst percentage fall since September 25. It was recently trading at $1.2244.

If the pound continues on its negative path it will have fallen for four days in the past five. Against the euro it was 0.4 per cent down at €1.1209.

London’s FTSE 100 shed 1.7 per cent in morning trading, along with other European indices. The European benchmark Stoxx 600 declined 1.4 per cent.


Latest from Brussels

The FT’s Mehreen Khan reports

Michel Barnier has just finished debriefing the EU’s college of commissioners on the state of play in Brexit talks.

Officials said the UK proposals are expected to land in Brussels this morning. Later today, Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will speak by phone at 17:15 CET.

EU27 diplomats will be briefed by commission officials at 18:30 CET on the so-called “two borders, four years” plan.

Plenty have already dismissed the idea the EU can accept a hard customs border on the island of Ireland, but say the bloc is willing to continue negotiations to bridge the gaps before an EU leaders summit on October 17.


Chancellor Sajid Javid arriving at conference centre


Emoticon Boris Johnson arrives at conference


ING: Hopes of a deal are fading

Dutch bank ING sees a “massive gap” between the UK and EU over the Irish backstop, and is expecting a general election later this year.

Here is the latest from its research team:

Election looms as chances of last-minute deal fade. The massive gulf between the UK and the EU on the Irish backstop mean chances of a revised deal this month are slim. Failure to get an agreement approved by MPs would oblige the UK prime minister to ask Brussels for more time. The way Boris Johnson tackles this deadline, and the way an extension is viewed by voters, will be key in a late-2019 election


Emoticon Prime minister’s speech begins

Boris Johnson is in the conference hall and is making his way to the stage, shaking hands with some of the delegates on his way.


Johnson makes a unionist pitch

Boris Johnson begins by paying tribute to Theresa May. No sign of her in the conference hall.

He promises to continue to build on her legacy, and flags planned investment in hospitals, police numbers and in a unionist pitch, new “high wage, high skilled jobs” in Scotland.

“We have so many reasons to be confident in our country and its direction.”


Dublin says it has yet to receive Johnson’s plan

The FT’s Arthur Beesley reports from Dublin:

The Irish government said it has not received Boris Johnson’s latest plan in advance of its submission to Brussels.

“As of this morning no paper had been presented to Dublin,” said the spokesman for Leo Varadkar, Irish premier.


Brussels to examine ‘objectively’ UK’s forthcoming Brexit proposals

A spokesperson for the European Commission has said Brussels “will examine objectively and in light of well-known criteria” the UK’s forthcoming plans to replace the Irish backstop, writes Mehreen Khan in Brussels.

The EU maintains any alternative must be a “legally operational solution, meeting all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving north south cooperation and all-island economy and the integrity of the single market”.

The spokesperson said:

We think an orderly withdrawal is far more preferable than a ‘no-deal’ scenario


“Let’s get Brexit done”

Mr Johnson has renewed his attack on parliament, using a series of increasingly well-received metaphors.

“If parliament was a reality TV show then the whole lot of us would have been voted out of the jungle by now.”

Moving to leaving the EU, he said that everyone from leavers to remainers to the whole world want “Brexit done.”

“Lets get Brexit done, we can, we must and we will,” he said.


Boris Johnson speaks to party faithful

“This is not an anti-Europe party, this is not an anti-Europe country. I love Europe!” he says.


Johnson lays into Labour

Boris Johnson has gone on the attack against the Labour party, describing the opposition as “fratricidal antisemitic Marxists”.

He hit out at Jeremy Corbyn for his speech to his own party conference last week, accusing him of wanting to create a four day week which would “slash the wages of people on low incomes”.

He also said Labour would “ban private school and expropriate their property even though it would cost £7bn to educate the kids”.


Brussels waits for the post

As Boris Johnson stands up to deliver his conference speech, an EU official tells the Financial Times, the UK has not sent its alternative backstop plans to Brussels, writes Mehreen Khan.

They are now expected to arrive in the late afternoon.


Johnson: Let’s get Brexit done

Boris Johnson criticised the prospect of two more referendums, in Scotland and a second Brexit vote.

“Can you imagine three more years of this?”

“After three and a half years people are beginning to feel they are being taken for fools, and they are beginning to suspect there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all.”


Emoticon Johnson outlines Brexit proposal

Here is the key part of the speech, as Mr Johnson outlines the UK’s new proposals for solving the Irish border question. He said they are “constructive and reasonable proposals.”

He sketched out this plan:

• Under no circumstances checks at or near the border in N Ireland
• We will respect the peace process and the GFA
• “A process of renewable democratic consent by the executive and assembly of Northern Ireland”
• Protect existing regulatory arrangements for farmers and businesses on both sides of the border
• Whole of the UK to withdraw from the EU and have control over trade policy “from the start”


Emoticon Johnson warns alternative is no-deal

Mr Johnson said the plan involved compromise by the UK, and he hopes the EU is able to compromise in turn.

If the two sides fail to reach an agreement, he said the alternative is a no-deal exit.

“If we fail to get an agreement because on what is essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks, when that technology is improving the whole time, then let us be in no doubt of what the alternative is. The alternative is no deal.”

“That is not an outcome we want. It is not an outcome we seek at all. But let me tell you my friends, it is an outcome for which we are ready.”


Johnson: ‘We are the party of the NHS’

Johnson has asserted that the Conservative party is “the party of the NHS”, saying that its advocacy of free market capitalism will drive economic productivity in the UK, allowing for greater investment in the service.

We are the party of the NHS [...] I claim that title because it is our One Nation conservatism that has delivered and will deliver the economic growth that makes those investments possible.

How are we going to do it? [...] By raising the productivity of the whole of the UK, not with socialism, not with the deranged and ruinous plans borrowed from the playbook of Bolivarian Venezuela, but by creating the economic platform for dynamic freemaket capitalism.


Tories “lapping it up in the hall”

The prime minister is sticking with the domestic agenda, and says the government is investing in improved connectivity across the country.

The FT’s Sebastian Payne is in the conference hall, and says the party faithful are lapping it up:


Exporting Nigel Farage…

Mr Johnson mentions Brexit party leader Nigel Farage in a list of presumably successful UK exports:

“We exported Nigel Farage briefly to America although he seems to have come back.”


Back to Brexit

After shifting away from Brexit to speak about policy in areas from energy to transport to crime, Mr Johnson has pivoted back to Brexit, promising the party faithful a host of advantages of leaving the EU.

Let’s get Brexit done on October 31 not just because we have such an immense agenda to take our country forward but because Brexit is an opportunity in itself.

Pandering to Scottish vote, Mr Johnson chanced a joke at the SNP, saying: “One of the many bizarre features of the SNP is that in spite of being called names like Salmond and Sturgeon, they are committed to handing back control of those fish to the EU

We want to turbo charge the Scottish fishing sector, they want brussels to charge for our turbot.

He then moved on to a host of other potential advantages outside the EU, speaking about exporting catamarans to Mexico and Jason Donovan CDs to North Korea.

When we leave the EU, we will be able to allow UK businesses and manufacturers to have bigger tax breaks for the investment they make in capital and new technology.

Out of the EU we can use the tax regime to do freeports and new enterprise zones.

We can ban the cruel shipment of live animals that has offended the British people for so long.

Mr Johnson said there were countries across the world “yearning to do business” with the UK.


Emoticon Speech ends with Johnson’s election pitch

Mr Johnson is now laying out his pitch for the next general election. He said Labour would lead to more “dither and delay” over Brexit.

“Let’s get Brexit done. Let’s finally believe in ourselves.”

He said the Tory party will present a positive vision of an outward looking country at the next general election.

Referencing a possible SNP-Labour coalition pact, an attack line which worked so well for the Tories in 2015, Mr Johnson said Corbyn would “break up the United Kingdom.”

“So let’s get on with sensible, moderate One Nation but tax cutting Conservative government.”

With one final “let’s get Brexit done,” the speech ends with a call to bring the country back together.


Sterling shrugs off Johnson speech

The pound was largely unmoved by the contents of Mr Johnson’s speech, which is not surprising given that we did not learn much on his Brexit proposal over and above the details that leaked out overnight.


Prime minister sets out ‘constructive’ last-minute Brexit plan

Boris Johnson said there will be no checks “at or near” the border in Northern Ireland as he prepares to offer “constructive and reasonable” last-minute Brexit proposals to Brussels, writes Laura Hughes in Manchester.

Delivering his keynote speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Wednesday, he warned that, should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, there should be “no doubt” that the alternative to his plan is a no-deal exit.

Mr Johnson said the Good Friday peace agreement will be honoured and existing regulatory arrangements for farmers and businesses on both sides of the border will be protected.

He said the process would be underpinned “by a process of renewable democratic consent by the executive and assembly of Northern Ireland”.

This afternoon UK will table a detailed proposal to Brussels for replacing the backstop, which involves a customs union between the UK and the EU to avoid a hard Irish border, as part of a revised withdrawal agreement.

Later today, Mr Johnson and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will speak by phone.

In details first leaked to the Daily Telegraph, the “mainland” of Great Britain would aim to secure a free-trade deal with the EU by 2021.

However, Northern Ireland would stay aligned with EU rules for agrifoods and industrial goods for four years.

After four years, a reconvened Stormont assembly would decide whether to remain aligned with EU rules — to reduce friction at the Irish border — or comply with rules for Great Britain to reduce the need for checks on the Irish Sea.


Business responds to Johnson speech

The CBI has responded to the prime minister’s speech. Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said:

“The UK is at a crossroads. One road leads to the Prime Minister’s optimistic vision for our country. Firms will back the call for business and Government to work together to lift growth and tackle inequality. This scale of ambition for infrastructure, skills, sustainability and trade will show the world that the UK is a magnet for world-class enterprise.

“But this vision relies on a good Brexit deal. The No Deal turning ends in a very different place: a swamp that will slow the UK’s every step for years to come”

Here is the view of the Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry:

“This is crunch time in the Brexit process and it is vital that the Prime Minister finds not just words but a viable way forward to secure a deal and a period of transition.

Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said:

“The prime minister spoke of needing compromise to reach a Brexit deal, and all sides must live up to this principle in word and deed in the weeks ahead. It can’t just be about getting Brexit done, it matters how it’s done.


Key takeaways from Manchester speech

Quotes from Boris Johnson’s speech in Manchester from Laura Hughes:

Today in Brussels we are tabling what I believe are constructive and reasonable proposals which provide a compromise for both sides

We will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland. We will respect the peace process and the Good Friday agreement and by a process of renewable democratic consent by the executive and assembly of Northern Ireland

By process of renewable democratic consent by executive and assembly of Northern Ireland, we will go further and protect the existing regulatory arrangements for farmers and other businesses on both sides of the border and at the same time we will allow the UK – whole and entire – to withdraw from the EU, with control of our own trade policy from the start

Mr Johnson warned there would be “grave consequences for trust in democracy” if Brexit is delayed beyond October 31.

Next year promises to be one of “chaos”, he suggested, and will include the prospect of two more referendums: a second Brexit vote and a second one on independence in Scotland.

After three-and-a-half years people are beginning to feel they are being taken for fools, and they are beginning to suspect there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all


DUP satisfied with Johnson’s proposals

From Laura Hughes at the conference:

Democratic Unionist party officials said they were satisfied with Mr Johnson’s proposals. One aide said they supported plans to offer Stormont “democratic control” and avoid a trade barrier in the Irish sea.


Investors react to Johnson’s speech

Investment manager Henderson Rowe said the prime minister’s speech was “very light” on Brexit detail.

“The speech was very light on detail, but even if Johnson can strike a deal with the EU, he still needs to get it through the Parliament. The deal has to be aggressive enough to sway the hardest Eurosceptics in the Tory party as their default position is still a no-deal Brexit.”


Sajid’s selfie

The chancellor, Sajid Javid, said Boris Johnson gave a “brilliant speech” to conference.

“Let’s get Brexit done and seize the chance to do so much more,” he tweeted.

Mr Javid earlier tweeted a Cabinet conference selfie:


Where are they now?

Wondering where the previous occupants of 10 Downing Street were while Boris Johnson addressed the Conservative party faithful?

The FT’s Jim Pickard is on the case:


Conciliatory tone?

We had been led to believe that Boris Johnson would use this conference speech to brand the new Irish border proposals as the UK’s “final offer” to Brussels and Dublin, but the prime minister did not end up using those words.

Mr Johnson said the UK’s offer was a compromise, and he hopes the EU would be able to “compromise in their turn.”

Here’s the FT’s Seb Payne at the conference:


Tories take 11-point polling lead

The Conservatives have opened up an 11-point polling lead as Labour slip into third place, according to YouGov’s latest sample of Westminster voting intention.

The poll – which was conducted before Boris Johnson’s conference speech – has the Tories on 34 per cent, followed by the Liberal Democrats on 23 per cent. Labour languish in third place on 21 per cent.


Focus turns to how Brexit proposals will be received

The FT’s Seb Payne reports:

The details of Boris Johnson’s big new Brexit offer are due this afternoon, but Downing Street insiders say they have low expectations about how it will be received. While No10 initially suggested this would be the final and only offer from the UK, allies of the prime minister say this is not the case.

Instead No10 is hoping that the deal will prompt a new conversation about how to strike a deal in time for the next EU council. Crucially Downing Street insiders point out that the European Research Group of Brexit-supporting MPs and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party are on board with the new plan.

Mr Johnson hopes to use this unity at home to demonstrate to the EU that if they engage with the proposals, a fresh deal can pass through parliament. But Brussels and EU member states are likely to remain sceptical, given the divisions on show in the Commons.

This plan has not been cooked up overnight either. No10 officials have been working quietly on the new proposals ever since Mr Johnson became PM in July – with an emphasis of keeping everyone on board. “It’s all been very delicate,” in the words of one official.

All eyes today will be on Dublin and whether it rejects it out right or welcomes No10’s latest efforts for a Brexit compromise. If Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says no outright, it is hard to see how anything moves forward and that could well be it for the Brexit negotiations. But if Dublin is publicly willing to engage and keep talking, Team Boris will be content.


Dublin has ‘many, many questions’ after Johnson speech

All eyes are now on the Irish capital ahead of the release of the prime minister’s new proposals later today, with the response of Leo Varadkar’s government key in determining the EU’s position.

Arthur Beesley reports from Dublin:

One senior minister in Mr Varadkar’s government said Boris Johnson’s speech raised “many, many questions” but Dublin awaits details on the British prime minister’s new plan before casting judgment.

Richard Bruton, Irish communications minister, said the speech was “very light” on details, and said that made it difficult to form a view. His remarks came after Simon Coveney, deputy Irish premier, said he was not encouraged by reports on the UK proposal.

Mr Bruton told RTÉ:

“I think there are many, many questions that would be posed from what we heard in Boris Johnson’s speech but I think we do have to give the British prime minister the opportunity to present those proposals and not leap to conclusions until we’ve seen them.”

He added: “We really need to see the hard text that comes forward from the British government and form our judgments on the basis of that text.”


EU negotiating team ready for ‘crucial’ meeting with UK counterparts

Mehreen Khan reports from Brussels:

Michel Barnier has told EU commission officials that his team is ready for a “crucial” meeting with UK negotiators this afternoon that would determine the chances of averting a no-deal Brexit.

EU officials told the FT that Mr Barnier said the EU would not reject the proposals out of hand but was “not optimistic” about the chances of success.

He told the college Brussels will try its best to find a breakthrough with the proposals on the table.


Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator arrives for talks

David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator has arrived at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels for crunch talks on the prime minister’s new proposals.


Johnson and Varadkar to hold talks tonight

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will speak with Boris Johnson this evening by phone, RTÉ News has reported.

The Irish government’s reaction to the UK’s fresh border proposals will be crucial for setting the tone for any future negotiations.

A senior minister in Mr Varadkar’s government earlier said Mr Johnson’s speech had raised “many, many questions,” but the Irish government has said all day that it wants to wait for the detail of the UK’s plan.


Germany and France brace for another Brexit delay

The FT’s Tony Barber writes:

Germany and France hold out little hope that the UK government’s latest proposals on the Irish border puzzle will help to deliver a Brexit deal at a Brussels summit of EU leaders on October 17-18.

Rather, with considerable misgivings, the Germans and French envisage a third extension of the UK’s departure date from the EU, after two previous delays in March and April.

Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, tweeted on Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s newest Brexit plans were “not serious and violate the law”.

For its part, the French government has little enthusiasm for reversing Brexit, but believes nonetheless that one more extension — but one only — would be an acceptable short-term compromise.

Check out Tony’s full piece here


Emoticon Johnson outlines UK’s Brexit plan

Boris Johnson has written a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, outlining his new plan for the Irish border.

Crucially, the backstop has gone, insisting Northern Ireland must remain part of the UK customs territory.

However the UK has conceded that Northern Ireland would remain under EU regulations for agriculture, food and manufactured goods.

While the UK hopes this would eliminate the need for most border checks, in the letter Mr Johnson concedes “a very small number of physical checks” away from the border would be needed.

Here are the key points:

• The four page letter from Boris Johnson says it would be a “failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible” if the two sides fail to reach an agreement. He added “both sides now need to consider whether there is sufficient willingness to compromise” to reach an agreement in time.

• The letter does not offer a concrete deal. Instead Mr Johnson sets out “a broad landing zone in which I believe a deal can begin to take shape.”

• Mr Johnson says the framework of a future relationship agreed by Theresa May’s government is not his goal, meaning the backstop is “a bridge to nowhere.”

• Mr Johnson is suggesting continued regulatory alignment with the EU for Northern Ireland via an “all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland,” covering all goods. “This zone would eliminate all regulatory checks for trade in goods.”

• The UK is proposing the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly should have a vote to endorse the plan, during the transition, and every subsequent four years. “EU rules cannot be maintained indefinitely if they are not wanted – a key defect of the backstop.”

• Northern Ireland would remain fully part of the UK’s customs territory. Mr Johnson says “it is entirely reasonable” to manage the Irish border differently.

• Paperwork would be conducted electronically, but Mr Johnson conceded there would be “a very small number of physical checks” at traders’ premises or other points on the supply chain.


Boris Johnson’s proposals in full

Here is the text of the letter from the prime minister to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in its entirety:


What does this all mean?

The FT’s George Parker reports from Manchester

This is what we have learnt from Boris Johnson’s new Brexit plan:

1. The proposal will create two borders. A new regulatory border for manufactured goods, agriculture and food on trade between GB and Northern Ireland and a new customs border between NI and Ireland

2. The DUP’s concerns about the regulatory barrier will be addressed through the promise of “consent” – via the Stormont assembly – and that old favourite, cash. Mr Johnson is offering a “New Deal for Northern Ireland”, which could be measured in billions of pounds.

3. Mr Johnson’s plan to remove the need for physical customs checks on the Irish border is a familiar mix of “maximum facilitation” methods and “alternative arrangements” – an approach previously rejected by the EU.

Technology, trusted trader schemes, customs checks in factories are not seen by the EU as a sufficient protection against cross-border smuggling.

4. Mr Johnson is really serious about taking NI out of the customs union. His team say it’s the bottom line. It also makes getting a deal, based on these proposals, much harder.

The prime minister has made it clear that he will not accept an expected EU counter-proposal to revive the idea of a “Northern Ireland-only backstop” that would see only NI stay in the customs union.

5. The first hurdle for Mr Johnson is whether the EU takes his plan seriously enough to engage in serious talks. Number 10 is hoping that it goes into Brussels’ famous “tunnel”, where lawyers and civil servants work in secret to try to come up with a compromise.

If the EU rejects it out of hand, Mr Johnson will start preparing for a no deal exit. Brussels thinks a more likely outcome is that he will be forced to extend the Article 50 Brexit process and that an election – or second referendum – would follow.

Then we’ll be back talking about all this again in a couple of months’ time.


DUP and ERG on board with UK plan

“Somewhat surprisingly, the DUP and ERG on board with the new Brexit plan,” the FT’s Seb Payne writes.

In his letter to the EU, Boris Johnson has proposed a new regulatory border for some goods between GB and Northern Ireland, essentially a border in the Irish sea.

No10 has done a good job of keeping both sides on board. But can this fragile coalition hold if/when the UK has to give further concessions?


‘New deal’ for Northern Ireland

It looks like the UK government’s proposals include throwing some more cash at Northern Ireland.

Under a ‘new deal’ to help the region, Boris Johnson promises “appropriate commitment” to help boost economic growth and competitiveness, including infrastructure, “particularly with a cross-border focus.”


DUP back Boris

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party has given its blessing to the prime minister’s new proposal, saying the offer “provides a basis for the EU to continue in a serious and sustained engagement with the UK government without risk to the internal market of the United Kingdom”.

“These proposals would ensure that Northern Ireland would be out of the EU Customs Union and the Single Market as with the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Here is the full text of the DUP’s statement:


How will Ireland respond?

The success or failure of Boris Johnson’s new proposal is likely to rest on the reaction of the Irish government.

Speaking before the documents were published, Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar said the emerging proposal to break the Brexit deadlock was “not encouraging.”

Arthur Beesley in Dublin writes:

Mr Varadkar said he had no wish to comment on a document he had not seen or studied but said it appeared the UK plan would fall short.

“Certainly what we are hearing is not encouraging and would not be the basis for an agreement, sadly , in my view. We do want there to be a deal. We do want there to be an agreement and we will work until the last moment to secure an agreement but we will not do so at any cost and we are ready for no deal if that’s what the British decide to do.”

In a pointed reference to DUP support for a plan rejected by other Northern Irish parties, Mr Varadkar said the British government should listen to all people in a region that voted against Brexit in the 2016 referendum.

“What I would ask anybody in the British government at the moment or the British political establishment, I would ask them to listen to all of the people of Northern Ireland and not any one particular party.

“The people of Northern Ireland by a clear majority voted against Brexit, a majority of members of the Stormont assembly support the backstop and the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland do not want customs posts between north and south.”


SNP: EU unlikely to accept UK’s proposals

The Scottish National party’s leader in Westminster Ian Blackford does not think the EU will accept this new plan, and said the UK’s proposals are “window dressing”.

What it seems to be suggesting is the so-called backstop is time-limited, that the Northern Ireland assembly has the right to disentangle that. I cannot see that is going to be acceptable to Europe […] I don’t think this is a way forward, I think this is simply window dressing from the government.


A deep dive into the new proposals

With the prime minister’s proposals now in the open, attention is turning to Dublin and Brussels for the European response.

As we wait to see what kind of reception they get, George Parker, the FT’s political editor, has taken a closer look at the proposals and how Boris Johnson hopes to use them to escape from the Brexit quagmire.

Critically, George notes that the prime minister insists that his proposal would require “no new physical infrastructure” to carry out customs checks at the border.

The problem is that no other customs border in the world operates without such checks and the EU fears Northern Ireland will become a backdoor for smugglers. 

Moreover, the idea that the EU will be able to agree to a complex range of “behind the border” customs checks before October 31 — when Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc — is fanciful. 

Read the full piece here


Cool response from business in Northern Ireland

Boris Johnson’s new Brexit plan has received a cool response from business in Northern Ireland, Arthur Beesley reports.

Ann McGregor, chief of the regional chamber of commerce, expressed anxiety about the prospect of trade “friction” as a result of the proposal.

“Whilst saying very little about Brexit in his speech, the Prime Minister referred to ‘no checks at the border’ rather than no checks at all. This definitely infers friction on all sides.”

“It is not a situation conducive to business growth, export and private sector employment. It is imperative that it does not happen even for a time limited period. Businesses are telling us that the potential increased costs will seriously damage business supply lines and indeed business survival.”


Corbyn: UK proposals ‘not acceptable’

The domestic political backlash against the government’s new proposals has begun.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said Boris Johnson’s proposed deal with the EU undermines the Good Friday Agreement and is “not acceptable.” He has called on the prime minister to explain the proposal in the House of Commons tomorrow.

“It is worse than Theresa May’s deal, I can’t see it getting the support that he thinks it will get,” Mr Corbyn told Sky News.

”Everything to do with his behaviour and his language over the past few weeks has been about getting a no-deal Brexit.”


EU studies Johnson’s proposals

The European Parliament’s Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt has been reading through Boris Johnson’s proposals during a session of the parliament.


Farage unimpressed by UK plan

Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit party who is pressing for a no-deal exit, has hit out at the government’s new Brexit proposals.


Ex-UK Brexit negotiator: ‘I cannot see EU and Ireland agreeing’

Raoul Ruparel, a former UK Brexit negotiator has weighed in on the prime minister’s new proposals.

Mr Ruparel, who was special adviser on Europe under Theresa May, said he could not see the EU and Ireland agreeing to the proposals and that they “may not even see a basis for negotiations”.

Among his tweeted observations – which are set out in full below – Mr Ruparel said that while the plan could in theory avoid physical border infrastructure “it would still mean a big change to the way businesses operate in Ireland and NI, creating significant burdens in terms of admin & checks”.

He said mention of a “broad landing zone” was welcome but emphasised that even if the EU were to see this as “the ballpark for a deal it is hard to see how legal text can be agreed in the space of two weeks”

“I have sat in these negotiations. It is a painstaking process.”



NI manufacturing body says proposals ‘worse than no deal’

Arthur Beesley reports from Dublin:

Manufacturing NI, another Northern Ireland business organisation, said the new Brexit plan was “worse than no deal” for companies in the region.

In a series of tweets the group said the plan will put a “huge impediment” in the way of trade for companies near the border “which will mean that they cannot compete”.

Customers on the other side of the frontier would cut Northern Irish companies from their supply chain, it said.


Sterling unmoved by UK’s Brexit plan

After a busy day which saw Boris Johnson unveil his new proposal to replace the Irish backstop, and repeat his warning that the UK is ready to leave without a deal if the two sides can’t come to an agreement, the pound is….. absolutely flat on the day.

Traders will be watching for whether the EU is willing to enter substantial negotiations over the plan, but perhaps more important for the currency will be whether the Benn Act, which legislates to stop a no-deal Brexit and has supported the pound since it passed last month, can hold if the government goes full-throttle for no-deal.

London’s FTSE 100 closed down more than 3 per cent, its worst trading day since 2016, but that was part of a global equity selloff that does not look to have been significantly influenced by Brexit.


EmoticonEU: ‘Problematic points’ but talks over deal will go on

The EU has said there are “still some problematic points” in the UK’s proposal for a fresh Brexit deal following a phone call between Boris Johnson and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Still, the commission said it welcomed some aspects of the UK offer, and that talks would continue in the coming days. It said meetings between the UK and EU negotiating teams will take place in Brussels over the coming days.

Here is an excerpt from the statement:

President Juncker welcomed Prime Minister Johnson’s determination to advance the talks ahead of the October European Council and make progress towards a deal. He acknowledged the positive advances, notably with regards to the full regulatory alignment for all goods and the control of goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

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 delicate balance struck by the Good Friday Agreement must be preserved.

Another concern that needs to be addressed are the substantive customs rules. He also stressed that we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU’s Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.

President Juncker confirmed to Prime Minister Johnson that the commission will now examine the legal text objectively, and in light of our well-known criteria.


Sinn Féin says Johnson government playing ‘fast and loose’ with GFA

Sinn Féin, the biggest Irish nationalist party in Northern Ireland, said Boris Johnson’s new Brexit plan was a “non-starter”, writes Arthur Beesley.

Mary Lou McDonald, party leader, said Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionists should not be given a veto in the Northern Ireland assembly on post-Brexit arrangements for the border with the Irish republic.

We have said all along that the backstop – or any alternative to the backstop – cannot be time-limited in any way, yet this is what Boris Johnson now proposes

Mr Johnson’s plan allows for the creation of an all-Ireland regulatory zone but the consent of the Northern Ireland assembly at Stormont would be required to continue the arrangement after a transition period.

This has raised concern within Sinn Féin that the DUP could strike down the zone because the voting system at Stormont allows a bloc of pro-British unionist or Irish nationalist votes to veto some decisions even if an assembly majority backs them.

Ms McDonald said: “Any arrangement that can be vetoed, blocked, stalled or stymied by the DUP is a non-runner, and it is clear that the British government is playing fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement.”


A round-up of today’s proceedings

As a reminder of where we are, these are – in a nutshell – the key points of what the prime minister has proposed:

• The creation of two borders: a new regulatory border for manufactured goods, agriculture and food on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, and a new customs border between NI and Ireland

• The DUP’s concerns about the regulatory barrier will be addressed through the promise of “consent” – via the Stormont assembly – and substantial cash investment.

• The prime minister wants to remove the need for physical customs checks on the Irish border through a mix of “maximum facilitation” methods and “alternative arrangements” – an approach previously rejected by the EU.

• He is serious about taking Northern Ireland out of the customs union, which his team says is the bottom line. It also makes getting a deal, based on the proposals, much harder.

• The first hurdle is whether the EU takes his plan seriously enough to engage in serious talks.

The European Commission has responded that there are “still some problematic points” but said that it would examine the text of the proposal “objectively” and “in light of our well known criteria”.

Meetings will take place between the EU and UK negotiating teams in the coming days to map a way forward.


That’s all for now folks

We are going to close down the blog for today.

It has been another momentous day in UK politics, with the prime minister adamant that the country must “get Brexit done”.

His proposals for a revised exit deal have been submitted to Brussels, which the bloc has said it will examine “objectively”. Keep an eye on ft.com for more reaction this evening from London, Brussels, Dublin and beyond.

The EU and UK negotiating teams will be meeting over the coming days, but the way forward from here remains unclear.

See you all soon.