International

Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan: EU ‘open but unconvinced’

The European Union is “open but not convinced” by the UK PM’s new proposals for a Brexit deal with the EU, the president of the European Council says.

Donald Tusk was among several leading EU voices to express doubt over Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement plan.

The plan would keep Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods but see it leave the customs union.

But what happens to the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland remains a central sticking point.

Irish PM Leo Varadkar said the new plans for the withdrawal agreement were welcome, but “fall short in a number of aspects”.

It comes as UK PM Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser, David Frost, is to hold another round of talks in Brussels in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has told European diplomats he still has plenty of questions about the British proposal to replace the backstop – the measure designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

He has said he will be in a better position to judge possible future negotiations with the UK once he has spoken to Mr Frost.

On Thursday, Mr Johnson said he had made a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” with EU officials before time runs out to reach a deal for the 31 October deadline for the UK to leave the EU.

The UK government says it is aiming to reach a final agreement at an EU summit on 17 October.

EU leaders face a delicate political dance, uncertain if Mr Johnson is open for deeper negotiations or is focusing his attention on a possible election campaign, the BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler says.

Whatever happens, she adds, the EU will be reluctant to be seen slamming the door in the face of the UK.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s highest civil court is to consider whether Mr Johnson could be jailed if he ignores legislation aimed at preventing no-deal.

The so-called Benn Act requires the government to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline if it fails to either pass a deal in Parliament, or get MPs to approve no-deal, by 19 October.

However, Mr Johnson has repeatedly insisted he would not ask for a delay as the law requires him to, describing the legislation as a “surrender bill”. BBC