Leo Varadkar risked torching the last shreds of Brexit goodwill today as he accused Boris Johnson of defying the will of British people – claiming they want to stay in the EU.

The Irish PM said polls suggested the UK public would prefer to Remain in the bloc, but they were being failed by the ‘political system’.

The extraordinary intervention was immediately condemned as ‘meddling’ by Eurosceptics. 

It came as Mr Varadkar led a bruising rebuttal of the new Brexit blueprint unveiled by Mr Johnson yesterday. 

Speaking on a visit to Sweden, Mr Varadkar said the package did not form the ‘basis for an agreement’, suggesting there would have to be customs clearance checkpoints.

And asked about the possibility of the UK staying in the EU, he effectively demanded another referendum, saying: ‘All the polls since Prime Minister Johnson became prime minister suggest that’s what the British people actually want, but their political system isn’t able to give them that choice.’ 

His deputy Simon Coveney also put the boot in, warning ‘if that is the final proposal, there will be no deal’. 

EU council president Donald Tusk told Mr Johnson in a phone call that the bloc was ‘open but still unconvinced’, and also ‘stood fully behind Ireland’. 

 The resistance came as Mr Johnson insisted he had put forward a ‘serious’ blueprint that can win over a majority of MPs.   

He was bolstered in the Commons by support from Tory hardliners, who hailed ‘progress’ in the talks. The DUP and some Labour moderates have also signalled they are on board.  

Jeremy Corbyn suggested he would try to whip his MPs against Mr Johnson’s ‘reckless’ attempt to secure a Brexit deal and get the UK out of the EU.

The opposition leader laid out the command in the Commons, but some backbenchers in Leave-voting areas that as many as 30 would be prepared to support the Government’s plan to get Brexit done. 

Mr Johnson is expected to head to European capitals including Berlin and Paris in the next few days as he seeks to woo leaders into accepting his proposals.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds  accused Mr Varadkar of ‘a clear ramping up of rhetoric designed to derail any realistic prospect of a deal’.

‘The flippant Dublin reaction to the Prime Minister’s proposals has also exposed the reality that the Irish government would never have consented to the United Kingdom leaving the backstop if it had been implemented,’ he said.  

Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured on a visit to Sweden today) said polls suggested the UK public would prefer to Remain in the bloc, but they were being failed by the 'political system'

Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured on a visit to Sweden today) said polls suggested the UK public would prefer to Remain in the bloc, but they were being failed by the ‘political system’

Boris Johnson said he was making every effort to 'bridge the chasm' between the sides

Guy Verhofstadt

Boris Johnson said he was making every effort to ‘bridge the chasm’ between the sides. But senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt (right in Brussels yesterday) said getting the UK proposals through the European Parliament would be ‘almost impossible’

Simon Coveney told the Irish Parliament today if the new plan represented the UK's final offer there would be 'no deal'

Simon Coveney told the Irish Parliament today if the new plan represented the UK’s final offer there would be ‘no deal’

EU council president Donald Tusk told Mr Johnson in a phone call that the bloc was 'open but still unconvinced', and also 'stood fully behind Ireland'

EU council president Donald Tusk told Mr Johnson in a phone call that the bloc was ‘open but still unconvinced’, and also ‘stood fully behind Ireland’

Tory MP Peter Bone told MailOnline the comments from Mr Varadkar were ‘extraordinary’ and ‘meddling’.

‘We had a once in a lifetime referendum and there was a very clear majority for leaving the EU,’ he said.

‘What is even more strange is this is on the day that the Prime Minister came to the House of Commons with a very generous deal to the EU and particularly to Ireland.

‘The reaction from my constituents would be ‘it is nothing to do with you, mate, we make our own decisions’.’ 

Fellow MP Nigel Evans said: ‘The British people voted to leave the EU. We are democrats in the UK and we have never ignored a result of a referendum unlike other EU countries including Ireland.’ 

Downing Street said: ‘The UK voted to leave the EU and the PM believes it is vital that we deliver on that decision.’ 

DUP leader Arlene Foster accused Ireland of rejecting a reasonable offer and paving the road for a no deal exit. 

‘The Irish government’s majoritarian desire to ride roughshod over unionism was one of the reasons why the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected,’ she said. 

‘Mr Coveney’s rejection of a reasonable offer is paving the road for a no deal exit because unionism will not allow Northern Ireland to be trapped at the whim of Dublin or the EU. We will not buy that.’ 

In a statement today, the European Parliament’s steering group said: ‘Safeguarding peace and stability on the island of Ireland, protection of citizens and EU’s legal order has to be the main focus of any deal. 

‘The UK proposals do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop.’

What is Boris Johnson’s five-point plan to scrap the Irish backstop? 

Single market

Northern Ireland would leave the Customs’ Union with the rest of the UK but stay in the single market. 

This would constitute an ‘all island regulatory zone’ that covers trade of all goods. It would mean no checks between the two nations, because Northern Ireland would still have to follow EU rules.

Goods from Britain to Northern Ireland would effectively be managed by a border in the Irish Sea, with checks only in that direction, not the reverse. 

Stormont Lock 

The ‘all island regulatory zone’ will have to be approved by the people of Northern Ireland. This means the Northern Ireland Assembly has the right to veto the zone and could hold a referendum on the matter. 

Customs checks

Customs checks would have to be put in place on trade between Northern and the Republic of Ireland. Most checks would be made using technology, but some would still have to be physical.  

Cash for Northern Ireland 

A promise of a ‘new deal for Northern Ireland’ means ministers putting money aside for Belfast and Dublin to help aide economic development and ensure new measures work. 

Keeping to the Good Friday agreement 

Freedom of movement between two countries will remain. New deal would confirm commitment to collobaration between UK and Ireland.

Mr Varadkar told a press conference in Sweden that there were five ways to avoid a hard border – the reunification of Ireland; the Irish Republic re-joining the UK; the UK remaining in the single market and customs union; the border backstop mechanism; or the UK reversing the Brexit decision. 

But he said two different custom zones on the island would be ‘very hard to reconcile’.

‘Our objective is very clear – we don’t want to see any customs posts between north and south nor do we want to see any tariffs or restrictions on trade between north and south,’ he said.

‘They were all abolished in the 1990s and we don’t want to go back to that. The majority of the people in the north don’t and the majority of the people in the Republic of Ireland don’t.

‘But if we are going to be in two different customs unions I think that’s going to create a real difficulty that’s going to be very hard to reconcile.’

Meanwhile, the European Parliament’s steering group voiced  ‘grave concerns’ about the UK’s Brexit package.

Its combative head Guy Verhofstadt said it would be ‘nearly impossible’ to get approval from MEPs for such a plan, adding: ‘It’s mainly repackaging the bad ideas that have already been floated in the past.’ 

Earlier, Mr Coveney told the Irish Parliament that there were some parts of the offer that represented ‘progress’. 

But he added: ‘There are elements of this proposal that simply will not be part of any deal.’ 

‘Despite this paper saying they want to avoid customs checks they do raise the prospect of customs checks somewhere, not just in premises and businesses, and we think that’s going to be a real problem,’ he said. 

The Tanaiste said that would potentially undermine the commitment for no border infrastructure. 

However, in a glimmer of hope, Mr Coveney said there was a chance the blueprint could provide a ‘stepping stone’ to a final ‘landing zone’ for a deal. 

He said he hoped the UK’s plan could be developed into something that was ‘fit for purpose’.  

EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has already given a cool response, welcoming ‘positive advances’, but saying some of the ideas were ‘problematic’.  

In bruising Commons clashes today, Mr Corbyn said: 'No Labour MP could support such a reckless deal that will be used as a springboard to attack rights and standards in this country'

In bruising Commons clashes today, Mr Corbyn said: ‘No Labour MP could support such a reckless deal that will be used as a springboard to attack rights and standards in this country’

EU negotiator Michel Barnier, regarded by the UK as the biggest obstacle to a deal, pointed out that the EU will have guaranteed not to enforce a hard border, even if the arrangements collapse. ‘The EU would then be trapped with no backstop to preserve the single market after Brexit,’ he is said to have briefed officials privately.  

Up to THIRTY Labour MPs could rebel against Jeremy Corbyn 

Jeremy Corbyn today ordered his Labour MPs to frustrate Boris Johnson’s ‘reckless’ attempt to secure a Brexit deal and get the UK out of the EU.

The opposition leader laid out the command in the Commons amid claims by some backbenchers in Leave-voting areas that as many as 30 of his MPs would be prepared to support the Government’s plan to get Brexit done.

Tory Spartans also rallied behind the Prime Minister today as he claimed his Brexit blueprint can ‘bridge the chasm’ with the EU.

Running the gauntlet of the House of Commons, the PM said he had put forward a ‘serious’ blueprint that can win over a majority of MPs, again warning that the only alternative was No Deal.

He was bolstered by support from hardliners, who hailed ‘progress’ in the talks. The DUP and some Labour moderates have also signalled they are on board.   

But Mr Corbyn made clear he is determined to order his loyalist MPs to block the proposals if they ever come to Parliament. 

‘No Labour MP could support such a reckless deal that will be used as a springboard to attack rights and standards in this country,’ he said.

The next 48 hours will be critical, as No10 has warned talks could be abandoned altogether if the EU does not agree to use the draft text as the basis for intensive negotiations.

Aides have even threatened that Mr Johnson will boycott a crunch summit on October 17, throwing the process into chaos.

Mr Johnson is said to have told ministers at a 50-minute Cabinet meeting this morning that he planned to be ‘glutinously emollient’ towards the EU over the coming days.  

In the House today, Mr Johnson said: ‘This government’s objective has always been to leave with a deal and these constructive and reasonable proposals show our seriousness of purpose.

‘They do not deliver everything we would have wished. They do represent a compromise.

‘But to remain a prisoner of existing positions is to become a cause of deadlock rather than breakthrough and so we have made a genuine attempt to bridge the chasm, to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable and to go the extra mile as time runs short.’ 

Mr Johnson said if the EU refused to engage with the proposals the UK will ‘simply leave with No Deal. 

‘If our European neighbours choose not to show a corresponding willingness to reach a deal than we shall have to leave on October the 31st without an agreement, and we are ready to do so,’ he warned. 

Veteran Eurosceptic Bill Cash was among those praising the proposals. 

‘Welcoming indications of progress in these negotiations, will you agree that the overriding democratic issue is that the referendum result itself and the Withdrawal Act with the 31st of October as the end date confirms the sovereign and inalienable right of the British people to govern themselves and that we need in this country is a general election now and to get Brexit done,’ he said.

Senior backbencher Graham Brady said he believed the plan fulfilled the terms of his amendment – which effectively called for the removal of the backstop, and is still the only Brexit framework that has been passed by the Commons. 

Jeremy Corbyn has made clear he is determined to order his loyalist MPs to block the proposals if they ever come to Parliament – although dozens of Labour politicians could rebel. 

The PM (pictured in Downing Street today) said he had put forward a 'serious' blueprint as he faced the House of Commons today

The PM (pictured in Downing Street today) said he had put forward a ‘serious’ blueprint as he faced the House of Commons today

Michael Gove

Andrea Leadsom

Michael Gove (left) and Andrea Leadsom (right) were in Downing Street for the Cabinet meeting earlier today

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told ITV's Good Morning Britain the UK plan upheld the Good Friday Agreement

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told ITV’s Good Morning Britain the UK plan upheld the Good Friday Agreement

The UK proposals would involve Northern Ireland following EU regulations, but staying outside the bloc’s customs union and aligned to the rest of the UK. 

Controversially, that will mean customs checks on the island of Ireland, although the government insists those can be minimised by using technology and carrying them out at trade premises. A revived Stormont Assembly would also have to sign off on keeping the arrangements every four years.  

More police needed to patrol Irish border, chief constable warns 

Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable has told Boris Johnson that it would not be possible to police the Irish border with his current officers. 

Simon Byrne said his 30-minute conversation with the Prime Minister happened by video call on Friday. ‘We were face to face on a video call for over half an hour,’ he said. 

‘It was a very open conversation trying to tell him we saw that it was nigh on impossible to try and police over 300 crossings with the amount of police officers we had. 

‘It was a candid conversation, he was responsive to what we said and at the end of the day, how it landed and what he thought… you’re going to have to ask him.’ 

European Parliament’s Brexit steering group Guy Verhofstadt suggested the UK offer was not a serious attempt at reaching a deal but an effort to shift blame for failure to Brussels.

‘The first assessment of nearly every member in the BSG was not positive at all,’ he said.

However, Mr Johnson has been boosted by signs that, if he can reach agreement with the EU, the package could get a majority in the Commons.

The DUP and hardline Eurosceptics, who helped bring down Theresa May’s deal, have made encouraging noises.

Arlene Foster said the plans, which could mean billions more for Northern Ireland, were a ‘sensible and stable way forward’.

And Steve Baker, chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, described the plans as ‘fair and reasonable’, while veteran Eurosceptic John Redwood said he was ‘very pleased’ with Mr Johnson’s decision to abandon Mrs May’s plan to keep the UK closely aligned with the EU.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock last night said up to 30 of his colleagues could be persuaded to back the plans if Mr Johnson can strike a deal with Brussels. 

Fellow Labour MPs Gareth Snell and Ruth Smeeth, who represent Leave-voting seats, also suggested they could back a deal.

Mr Kinnock said: ‘If Dublin and Brussels are happy, then we’re happy.’

Nicky Morgan

Dominic Cummings

Nicky Morgan (left) was at Cabinet, and No10 chief Dominic Cummings was also back at work in London today

Asked this morning about how the Brexit proposals solve the border issue, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘Well actually, today there’s a border, there’s a border in terms of currency and there’s a border in terms of tax, but in terms of putting no infrastructure at the border, in terms of ensuring that we are consistent with the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, then it does do that, that’s exactly what these proposals do.’ 

Mr Barclay said he had spoken to Mr Barnier and was confident the EU recognises the UK had put forward a ‘serious set of proposals’. 

In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester yesterday, Mr Johnson described his proposals as a ‘fair and reasonable compromise’ – warning the alternative was a No Deal Brexit this month.

‘Yes, this is a compromise by the UK,’ he said. ‘And I hope very much that our friends understand that and compromise in their turn. 

‘Because if we fail to get an agreement because of what is essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks… then let us be in no doubt that the alternative is No Deal.’

In a letter to Mr Juncker, Mr Johnson said he is anxious to get a deal, adding: ‘If we cannot reach one, it would represent a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible. Our predecessors have tackled harder problems – we can surely solve this one.’

In a quickfire and seemingly carefully choreographed sequence of events yesterday, No 10 announced last night that Mr Johnson will suspend Parliament again next week to stick to his plan to hold a Queen’s Speech on October 14. 

Britain braces for two weeks of Brexit chaos: Boris Johnson faces a race against time to strike a deal with the EU – but what happens if Brussels says no and will the PM be forced to quit?

The UK is braced for two of the most hectic weeks in the recent history of British politics as Boris Johnson races to try to strike a new Brexit deal with the EU. 

The PM has now submitted his ‘final offer’ to the bloc in which he sets out how he believes the Irish border backstop can be scrapped. 

The government is now urging Brussels to engage with the plan in the hopes that it can provide the basis for a new divorce accord. 

But the early noises from the continent  have not been good for Downing Street with European Council president Donald Tusk today saying the EU remains ‘open’ to a deal but it is so far ‘unconvinced’ by Mr Johnson’s proposals. 

The plan is not quite on life support as yet but Number 10 is likely to be pessimistic about the prospects of a deal being done.  

If the EU does agree to move forward with the ideas it will set up frantic negotiations ahead of a crunch summit on October 17. 

But if it rejects the blueprint in the coming days as unworkable then the two sides will be on course for either a chaotic split on October 31 or another Brexit delay. 

Here’s a run down of how the next 28 days could play out. 

Boris Johnson, pictured leaving 10 Downing Street today, is playing the waiting game after submitting his 'final offer' on Brexit to the EU

Boris Johnson, pictured leaving 10 Downing Street today, is playing the waiting game after submitting his ‘final offer’ on Brexit to the EU

The EU is yet to formally respond to the PM's five point plan but European leaders like Leo Varadkar, pictured in Stockholm today, have been relatively downbeat

The EU is yet to formally respond to the PM’s five point plan but European leaders like Leo Varadkar, pictured in Stockholm today, have been relatively downbeat

What is Boris Johnson’s next move? 

Having submitted his plans to Brussels yesterday and explained them to MPs in the House of Commons today, the PM is now playing a waiting game. 

The fate of Brexit is now entirely in the EU’s hands as the bloc must decide whether it can work with Mr Johnson’s five point plan or if it feels that it is totally unacceptable and must be entirely rejected.

The initial reception has not been particularly positive but crucially EU leaders have not totally dismissed the proposals. 

Downing Street will now have to wait to see whether Brussels is willing to formally engage on the ideas with a decision expected in the coming days. 

Time is tight: The Brexit deadline is now less than a month away and if there is to be a deal the two sides will need to enter formal talks as soon as possible.  

However, Mr Johnson is not just waiting for the EU to make a decision. The PM is engaging in a series of phone calls with his European counterparts in a bid to persuade them to at least entertain his blueprint. 

Mr Johnson is expected to travel to European capitals in the coming days to make his case in person but it is unclear exactly who he will meet and when. 

Is the PM going to try to prorogue Parliament again? 

Yes he is. Mr Johnson is due to ask the Queen for permission to suspend Parliament from next Tuesday. 

A Queen’s Speech will then be held on October 14 so that the government can set out its domestic legislative agenda.

How likely is it that this prorogation will be ruled unlawful?

Not very. The PM’s original attempt to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the amount of time MPs would be away was unacceptable because it would prevent them from scrutinising the government’s Brexit plans. 

But the court made clear that a shorter suspension of five or six days would likely be acceptable.  

Assuming prorogation does go ahead – and there is no reason to think that it won’t – MPs would return to work on October 14 to hear the Monarch set out Mr Johnson’s domestic plans. 

There would then likely follow four days of debate with votes likely to be held on October 21. 

When is the last EU summit before the Brexit deadline? 

What is Boris Johnson’s five-point plan to scrap the Irish backstop? 

Single market

Northern Ireland would leave the Customs’ Union with the rest of the UK but stay in the single market. 

This would constitute an ‘all island regulatory zone’ that covers trade of all goods. It would mean no checks between the two nations, because Northern Ireland would still have to follow EU rules.

Goods from Britain to Northern Ireland would effectively be managed by a border in the Irish Sea, with checks only in that direction, not the reverse. 

Stormont Lock 

The ‘all island regulatory zone’ will have to be approved by the people of Northern Ireland. This means the Northern Ireland Assembly has the right to veto the zone and could hold a referendum on the matter. 

Customs checks

Customs checks would have to be put in place on trade between Northern and the Republic of Ireland. Most checks would be made using technology, but some would still have to be physical.  

Cash for Northern Ireland 

A promise of a ‘new deal for Northern Ireland’ means ministers putting money aside for Belfast and Dublin to help aide economic development and ensure new measures work. 

Keeping to the Good Friday agreement 

Freedom of movement between two countries will remain. New deal would confirm commitment to collobaration between UK and Ireland. 

It is due to take place in Brussels on October 17-18. Both Britain and the bloc will be targeting that summit as potentially the last chance for a Brexit deal to be agreed. 

However, negotiations are rarely actually carried out when European leaders meet – all of the hard work on the nuts and bolts of the deal will have to have been done before the meeting takes place. 

That means the UK and EU have just two weeks to hammer out the terms of a new agreement. 

If the framework of an accord is not in place by October 17 it is unlikely that one would be agreed at the summit. 

However, there would still be scope for an emergency summit immediately before the Halloween deadline if something changed. 

What about the anti-No Deal law? 

The so-called Benn Act which was passed by Parliament after rebel MPs took control of the House of Commons requires the PM to ask the EU for a Brexit delay until January next year if the two sides have not agreed a deal by October 19. 

The PM has said that he will abide by whatever is on the UK’s statute book but he has also vowed to stick to his ‘do or die’ Brexit pledge, sparking fears that he could try to ignore or get around the legislation. 

What happens if the PM breaks the law? 

Such a circumstance would be unthinkable but if it happened it would trigger immediate legal action and the Supreme Court would likely rule that the law must be complied with. 

If the PM refused and potentially resigned it would then probably fall to someone else to have to ask the EU for a Brexit delay. 

Today it emerged that EU leaders are reportedly ready to outflank Mr Johnson and approve the three month delay even if he refuses to ask for one. 

It has been suggested that the letter required by the Benn Act requesting the delay might not have to be signed by Mr Johnson and that it could be done by the ‘head of government or head of state’ – that raises the prospect of the Queen getting involved.  

An EU source told The Times: ‘We don’t care who it is, whether it is the prime minister or another representative of the executive.

The chances of the Queen intervening by writing the letter appear slim but it is thought the Supreme Court could ask a senior civil servant to pen the request. 

Should the PM refuse to comply with the law and refuse to quit, MPs could table a vote of no confidence to try to oust him. 

What happens if the two sides do agree a deal? 

The terms struck would be put to a vote in the House of Commons – just like when Theresa May’s deal was voted on (and defeated) three times.

The government is bullish on the prospects of Mr Johnson being able to secure a majority for what he has proposed.  

He would probably be reliant on the support of a handful of Labour MPs in order to win.

So what exactly is Boris Johnson’s offer to the EU on the backstop?

The PM set out in a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday how he intends to replace the backstop. 

The government’s view is that ‘the proposed ‘backstop’ is a bridge to nowhere, and a new way forward must be found.’

Instead the government is proposing a ‘new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland’ that is ‘based around five elements’. 

The plan is to create two Northern Irish borders at the end of the Brexit transition period, with the arrangements rolled out in January 2021.

One of them will be a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

Effectively this would amount to a border in the Irish Sea with Northern Ireland remaining aligned with the EU on single market rules for all goods while the rest of the UK could diverge from those rules. 

That regulatory border would come with a proposed four-yearly review mechanism – but it would only go ahead in 2021 if the Northern Irish Assembly agreed to it. 

The PM tells Mr Juncker that he is anxious to strike a deal, adding: ‘If we cannot reach one, it would represent a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.'

Page 2 of Mr Johnson's new EU proposal

The PM told Jean-Claude Juncker in a letter yesterday that he is anxious to strike a deal, adding: ‘If we cannot reach one, it would represent a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.’

The four-page letter proceeds dozens of pages of proposal that outlines the Prime Minister's new Brexit blueprint, including a solution to the Irish backstop

The four-page letter proceeds dozens of pages of proposal that outlines the Prime Minister's new Brexit blueprint, including a solution to the Irish backstop

The four-page letter proceeds dozens of pages of proposal that outlines the Prime Minister’s new Brexit blueprint, including a solution to the Irish backstop 

‘We are proposing that the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly should have the opportunity to endorse those arrangements before they enter into force, that is, during the transition period, and every four years afterwards,’ the PM’s letter to Brussels says.

The second border would be between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and it would be purely relating to customs.

The UK is effectively asking the EU to grant wide-ranging exemptions on customs rules to make the north/south border as frictionless as possible. 

In simple terms, the backstop would be completely scrapped, Northern Ireland would leave the customs union with the rest of the UK but it would remain in parts of the single market until 2025. 

The plan has been dubbed ‘two borders for four years’.  

What would happen in 2025?

The Northern Irish Assembly would be asked how it wants to proceed, with two options on the table. 

The first would be for Northern Ireland to continue to stay aligned with EU regulations. 

The second would be to split from EU rules and then realign with the rest of the UK which would be assumed to have diverged from the Brussels regulations book in a number of areas by that time.

If Stormont opted for the second option it could risk the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland. 

But it would be hoped that by 2025 there would be technological solutions which could avoid that eventuality. 

‘Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory, not the EU customs union, after the end of the transition period. We must do so whole and entire. Control of trade policy is fundamental to our future vision,’ the PM said in his letter to Brussels.

What else is in the PM’s plan? 

The proposals to keep Northern Ireland in the single market for all goods, for the whole UK to leave the customs union at the same time and for Stormont to have a say on whether the borders plan goes ahead are the most eye-catching of the five points put forward by the PM.

But the final two are also important.

Firstly, Mr Johnson makes clear in his blueprint that he wants the two sides to ‘find solutions which are compatible with the Good Friday Agreement’ in order to protect peace on the island of Ireland.

‘This framework is the fundamental basis for governance in Northern Ireland and protecting it is that highest priority for all,’ the PM said in his letter to Mr Juncker.

Secondly, the premier has also recommitted to UK/Irish collaboration in a bid to ensure that Brexit does not harm the current relationship between the two nations.

In terms of specifics it reaffirms the UK’s commitment to maintaining the current Common Travel Area as well as continuing north/south cooperation.

What about the customs posts plan we heard about earlier this week?

It was reported that the UK was proposing establishing ‘customs clearance centres’ on both sides of the border as part of its plan to replace the backstop. 

Those customs posts would be located between five and 10 miles away from the crossing and would see lorries carrying goods check in and check out as they head north or south.

What is the Irish backstop and why is it so divisive?

The so-called Irish border backstop is one of the most controversial parts of the existing Brexit deal. This is what it means: 

What is the backstop? 

The backstop was invented to meet promises to keep open the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland even if there is no comprehensive UK-EU trade deal.

The divorce deal says it will kick in automatically at the end of the Brexit transition period if that deal is not in place.

It effectively keeps the UK in a customs union with the EU and Northern Ireland in both the customs union and single market.

This means many EU laws will keep being imposed on the UK, restricting its ability to do its own trade deals. It also means regulatory checks on some goods crossing the Irish Sea. 

Why have Ireland and the EU demanded it? 

Because the UK is leaving the customs union and single market, the EU said it needed guarantees that people and goods circulating inside its border – in this case in Ireland – met its rules.

This is covered by the Brexit transition, which effectively maintains the status quo, and can in theory be done in the comprehensive EU-UK trade deal.

But the EU said there had to be a backstop to cover what happens in any gap between the transition and final deal.  

Why do critics hate it? 

Because Britain cannot decide when to leave the backstop. 

Getting out – even if there is a trade deal – can only happen if both sides agree and Brexiteers fear the EU will unreasonably demand the backstop continues so EU law continues to apply in Northern Ireland.  

Northern Ireland MPs also hate the regulatory border in the Irish Sea, insisting it unreasonably carves up the United Kingdom.   

Such an approach would have ensured there was no physical infrastructure built at the border itself but it would have meant physical infrastructure being built somewhere and that would likely have been enough for the the EU and Dublin to reject the plan. 

However, the plan submitted by Mr Johnson to the EU makes no reference to ‘customs clearance centres’ or customs posts. 

It makes clear that it wants to monitor customs in a ‘decentralised’ way far away from the border and with only a ‘very small number’ of physical checks. 

Most of those checks would be carried out at the point of origin of goods with electronic paperwork doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping track of what is crossing the border.

Mr Johnson said in his letter to Mr Juncker: ‘All this must be coupled with a firm commitment by both parties never to conduct checks at the border in future.’  

Is the EU likely to agree to the UK’s new plan? 

Brussels will keep its powder dry until it has carefully considered what is set out in the UK’s plan. 

But the early noises are not good for Number 10.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar said today that Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans ‘fall short in a number of aspects’.

He also said the operation of two different custom zones on the island would create a ‘real difficulty’. 

He also risked fury as he said he believed the British people wanted to stay in the EU. 

He said: ‘All the polls since Prime Minister Johnson became prime minister suggest that’s what the British people actually want, but their political system isn’t able to give them that choice.’ 

Meanwhile, Mr Tusk said following separate phone conversations with Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar: ‘We remain open but still unconvinced.’ 

Elsewhere, the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group (BSG) said it has ‘grave concerns’ about Mr Johnson’s proposals, which it said cannot be backed ‘in their current form’.  

Is a No Deal Brexit now more or less likely? 

Until the EU formally responds it is hard to say for certain but it is immediately clear that the plan has not gone down particularly well in European capitals. 

However, the EU does not want a No Deal Brexit and certainly does not want to be blamed for a chaotic split. 

The question now is whether the bloc believes Mr Johnson’s offer can work as a starting point for further negotiations. 

If the answer is no, then the two sides will be heading for a bad break on October 31 – or another Brexit delay.    

Donald Tusk said the EU remained 'open' to a deal' but that he was so far 'unconvinced' by Mr Johnson's offer

Donald Tusk said the EU remained ‘open’ to a deal’ but that he was so far ‘unconvinced’ by Mr Johnson’s offer

Are there any other obvious problems with the plan? 

The Northern Irish Assembly would play a key part under Mr Johnson’s plan but Stormont has been suspended since January 2017 due to a range of problems and disagreements between the different political parties. 

Questions will inevitably be asked about whether such an unstable institution could be relied upon to be given such a crucial role in the Brexit process – firstly next year when it is asked whether or not to go ahead with the two borders plan and then again in 2025 when it is asked if it wants to continue with the arrangements. 

Some of this sounds familiar. Didn’t Theresa May suggest something like this? 

One plan Mrs May had looked at when she was in office was called ‘Max Fac’ – or ‘Maximum Facilitation’. 

That essentially suggested that technology could be used to reduce the need for customs checks and to ensure trade could remain as frictionless as possible. 

‘Max Fac’ was eventually put on the back burner but the concepts it is based on were enshrined in the old Withdrawal Agreement in the sense that it committed the two sides to examining potential technological ‘alternative arrangements’ to the backstop in the future. 

Mr Johnson’s new plan is also heavily reliant on technolog in order for it to work. 

Remind me: What’s the problem with the backstop? 

The main obstacle to a Brexit deal remains the Irish border insurance policy. 

The protocol is effectively a safety net intended to guarantee there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Mrs May, if there is no long-term trade agreement in place that ensures an open border, the UK would remain closely tied to EU rules and its customs union.

Mr Johnson has insisted the measure has to be scrapped as being in a customs union would prevent the UK striking trade deals. 

Meanwhile, getting out of the backstop would require the agreement of both the EU and UK, something Number 10 views as unacceptable because it means it could last indefinitely. 

How likely is it that the UK will leave the EU on October 31? 

The answer to this question depends entirely on who you ask. 

Mr Johnson is adamant that he will deliver on his ‘do or die’ pledge to take the UK out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal. 

He is also adamant that the proposals he is handing over to the EU represent the UK’s ‘final offer’.

But the so-called Benn Act requires the Prime Minister to seek a delay to Brexit if MPs have not approved a deal, or agreed to leave the EU without one, by October 19.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly said he will both obey the law and meet the Halloween deadline with or without a deal – but he has not been clear about how he intends to do both things.

It could all result in yet another constitutional crisis being played out in the courts. 

Does Boris Johnson have the numbers in Parliament for his new Brexit deal? Backing from DUP, Tory rebels and ‘sensible’ Labour MPs could get the PM over the line

The government is increasingly bullish about the chances of Boris Johnson’s proposed new Brexit deal being agreed by Parliament. 

The EU is yet to formally respond to the PM’s backstop replacement plan and for the moment the success or failure of his proposal hinges entirely on what Brussels does next.

If the bloc rejects the plan then there will likely either be a chaotic No Deal Brexit on October 31 or a fresh delay. 

But if the EU agrees that what Mr Johnson has come up with could form the basis of a divorce accord then attention will turn to the House of Commons and whether a majority of MPs would back it. 

When MPs voted on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement for the third and final time on March 29 it was defeated by 344 votes to 286, a majority of 58.

That means Mr Johnson will need to persuade approximately 30 MPs to switch from opposing a deal to voting for one. 

That also assumes that none of the 286 MPs who voted for the original deal have subsequently changed their minds. 

The path to a majority appears deceptively simple on paper but would be devilishly difficult to actually deliver.  

The PM will need almost every Tory to back him as well as most of the 22 former Conservative rebels, the DUP and at least some of a cohort of approximately 30 Labour MPs who are reconciled that Brexit has to happen. 

Boris Johnson, pictured in Manchester yesterday, has submitted a 'final offer' on Brexit to the EU, setting out how he believes the backstop can be deleted

Boris Johnson, pictured in Manchester yesterday, has submitted a ‘final offer’ on Brexit to the EU, setting out how he believes the backstop can be deleted

The government is relatively bullish about the PM's plan getting through the Commons - assuming the EU agrees to move forward with it. The potential support of Brexiteer Tories like Steve Baker (pictured in Downing Street at the start of September) could be crucial

The government is relatively bullish about the PM’s plan getting through the Commons – assuming the EU agrees to move forward with it. The potential support of Brexiteer Tories like Steve Baker (pictured in Downing Street at the start of September) could be crucial

What is Boris Johnson’s five-point plan to scrap the Irish backstop? 

Single market

Northern Ireland would leave the Customs’ Union with the rest of the UK but stay in the single market. 

This would constitute an ‘all island regulatory zone’ that covers trade of all goods. It would mean no checks between the two nations, because Northern Ireland would still have to follow EU rules.

Goods from Britain to Northern Ireland would effectively be managed by a border in the Irish Sea, with checks only in that direction, not the reverse. 

Stormont Lock 

The ‘all island regulatory zone’ will have to be approved by the people of Northern Ireland. This means the Northern Ireland Assembly has the right to veto the zone and could hold a referendum on the matter. 

Customs checks

Customs checks would have to be put in place on trade between Northern and the Republic of Ireland. Most checks would be made using technology, but some would still have to be physical.  

Cash for Northern Ireland 

A promise of a ‘new deal for Northern Ireland’ means ministers putting money aside for Belfast and Dublin to help aide economic development and ensure new measures work. 

Keeping to the Good Friday agreement 

Freedom of movement between two countries will remain. New deal would confirm commitment to collobaration between UK and Ireland. 

There are 650 MPs but seven Sinn Fein representatives do not take their seats while four do not vote because of their roles as speakers. 

That means the magic number for a majority is 320.

If the PM was able to secure all of the votes of all of the groups mentioned above he would comfortably get above that threshold.

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of the government’s No Deal contingency planing, last night said he believed the PM would have the numbers to get the deal over the line. 

He told ITV: ‘It has got a very good chance of getting through. The DUP are supportive of it. They didn’t support any of the previous three attempts to get a deal. 

‘I know that some Conservative MPs who were unhappy with the Withdrawal Agreement Theresa negotiated have said that they are supportive of this deal.

‘So we have the DUP, Conservatives who were previously opposed and some broad-minded and  constructive Labour MPs.

‘That seems to me to be a pretty solid majority and it is one that the EU can take reassurance from as well because one of the concerns the  EU has had in the past is if we make a concession will it get through Parliament?’ 

Some 34 Tories voted against Mrs May’s divorce deal on March 29 with most of them hardline Brexiteers and members of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptic MPs.

Downing Street is believed to be confident of getting that grouping of so-called ‘Spartans’ down into single figures and that would represent a significant step towards a deal being agreed.

One of the ‘Spartans’, ERG chairman Steve Baker, welcomed the PM’s plan but did not guarantee that he would vote for it. 

He told the BBC: ‘This is a great place to be starting as we go into this council where the final text will be agreed but it only deals with Northern Ireland. 

‘The Prime Minister has made a great and very significant move here by saying we will have a free trade agreement as the destination… so this is a great shift from where we were.’ 

He added: ‘But we haven’t yet seen that destination set out in full and there are other problems with the Withdrawal Agreement.’  

But even if Number 10 is able to win over most of those MPs, it will also have to ensure that most of the 21 Tories who were stripped of the whip after backing a bid to block No Deal and Amber Rudd who then quit the party are still on board. 

Most of them backed the original deal and many will be expected to support Mr Johnson’s proposed agreement but after their expulsion this is far from guaranteed. 

Meanwhile, the DUP and its 10 MPs are backing the PM’s proposals. The party opposed Mrs May’s deal in all three of the crunch votes. 

The party said in a statement yesterday: ‘This 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.’ 

Gareth Snell is one of approximately 30 Labour MPs who could be persuaded to back a Brexit deal but last night he warned his backing was not guaranteed

Gareth Snell is one of approximately 30 Labour MPs who could be persuaded to back a Brexit deal but last night he warned his backing was not guaranteed

The final group of MPs who will be in the PM’s sights will be the so-called Labour ‘pro-dealers’ who believe Brexit must be delivered but who opposed Mrs May’s deal. 

Just five Labour Brexiteers backed Mrs May’s draft accord on March 29. 

But there are thought to be approximately 30 pro-Leave Labour MPs who could be persuaded to support a deal in order to get Brexit done. 

Initial noises were positive after the PM made his plan public but the premier clearly has a lot of work to do to win them all over – as made plain by Labour MP Gareth Snell. 

He said: ‘Despite what some on Twitter are suggesting, mine and Ruth Smeeth’s position remains as it always has. 

‘We want the best deal possible, and one that is backed by the EU and elected politicians in NI. It’s absolutely not carte blanche support – and never has been.’

 

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