What was the original plan?
Dublin argued this would require a customs border, which would break the Good Friday Agreement.
In addition, EU said it would not accept Mr Johnson’s call to waive or simplify customs rules to keep cross-border trade in Ireland as frictionless as possible. The British plan had been to have customs checks ‘away from either side of the border’ but this was dismissed by critics as ‘vague’.
The original plan would have given the Northern Ireland Assembly a vote every four years on the new arrangements.
Dublin said this was effectively handing a near permanent veto to the Democratic Unionists at Stormont.
What has changed?
Mr Johnson met Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Merseyside on Thursday with little hope of progress. But after three hours of talks they both agreed on a ‘pathway to a possible deal’.
What they agreed is not yet fully known. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay put an outline to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday in a meeting described as ‘constructive’.
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Will it solve customs issue?
Sources claimed yesterday that Mr Johnson has agreed to effectively scrap any customs border between NI and the Republic – and replace it with a scheme under which the province will be in both the EU and the UK customs zones simultaneously.
Customs checks would take place at a new administrative border on the Irish Sea, with firms paying EU tariffs on goods travelling from the British mainland to Northern Ireland.
It would mean the UK would collect tariffs on goods on behalf of the EU. Goods to Ireland will then be free to travel there without any stop at the border. If the goods are destined for NI, firms could claim a rebate to take into account a potentially lower UK tariff.
The single market?
NI would stay ‘aligned’ to the EU’s rules and regulations. Checks would take place when goods are travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland, obviating the need for checks between Ulster and the Republic.
Mr Johnson’s plan has its roots in the ‘customs partnership’ once championed by Theresa May. This also would have seen NI effectively remain in the customs union but still able to take advantage of UK trade deals.
Last year, Mr Johnson described the idea as a ‘crazy system whereby you end up collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU at the UK frontier’ – exactly what he is now proposing. The EU also rejected the idea.
Mr Johnson’s plan relates only to Northern Ireland, while Mrs May’s took in the whole UK. This reduces the level of bureaucracy as the trade between the mainland and Ulster is clearly lower than the huge volumes flowing into ports such as Felixstowe and Dover.
Mr Johnson met Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Merseyside on Thursday with little hope of progress. But after three hours of talks they both agreed on a ‘pathway to a possible deal’ (pictured together after the meeting)
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay put an outline to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday in a meeting described as ‘constructive’ (pictured together on Friday)
Mr Johnson is understood to have dropped the four-yearly Stormont votes plan. Some form of democratic ‘consent’ is likely if only to honour the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
The other 27 EU members yesterday agreed to open intensive ‘tunnel’ negotiations on the latest proposals.Accelerated negotiations will take place over the weekend and could be wrapped up by Wednesday. If a deal is thrashed out in Brussels then it could be put to a vote in Westminster next Saturday, October 19.
Will MPs buy it?
He’s largely given up on the bulk of Labour MPs who are determined to stop a ‘Tory Brexit’ at all costs. The Lib Dems and the SNP will also vote against. No 10 will spend the week convincing Tory Remainers who were thrown out to now climb back on board. However, the chances of a deal being rubberstamped remain slim.
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