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.
But 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’
The PM said he had put forward a ‘serious’ blueprint as he faced the House of Commons today
He went on to attack the deal as leading to a ‘Trump-deal Brexit’, a claim he has repeatedly made before.
‘It rejects any form of customs union, something demanded by every business and industry body in Britain and every trade union,’ he said.
‘They want to ditch EU standards on worker’s rights, regulations and consumer standards and engage in a race to the bottom.
‘Deal or no-deal, deal or no-deal, this Government’s agenda is clear.
‘They want a Trump-deal Brexit. A Trump-deal Brexit that would crash our economy and rip away the standards that put a floor under people’s rights at work, that protect our environment and protect our consumers.’
But 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 would back a deal.
Mr Kinnock said: ‘If Dublin and Brussels are happy, then we’re happy.’
The clashes came after the UK’s plans for a ‘reasonable compromise’ were dramatically unveiled yesterday.
However, EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker gave a cool response, welcoming ‘positive advances’, but saying some of the ideas were ‘problematic’. Irish premier Leo Varadkar cautioned that it did not ‘meet all the objectives’ of the previous backstop.
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.
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.
Boris Johnson said he was making every effort to ‘bridge the chasm’ between the sides
Michael Gove (left) and Andrea Leadsom (right) were in Downing Street for the Cabinet meeting earlier today
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers were also at the crisis gathering in No10
He is expected to carry out a tour of capitals, starting in Berlin tomorrow.
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.
What is Boris Johnson’s five-point plan to scrap the Irish backstop?
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.
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 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.
‘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 gave the proposals a warm welcome. ‘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.
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.
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, also 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.
Irish PM Leo Varadkar gave a negative response to the UK blueprint
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told ITV’s Good Morning Britain the UK plan upheld the Good Friday Agreement
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.
Nicky Morgan (left) was at Cabinet, and No10 chief Dominic Cummings was also back at work in London today
‘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.
He is expected to embark on a whirlwind tour of EU capitals to sell the deal to leaders, starting with a visit to Berlin tomorrow for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Boris Johnson’s letter to Jean-Claude Juncker in full
There is now very little time in which to negotiate a new Agreement between the UK and the EU under Article 50. We need to get this done before the October European Council.
This Government wants to get a deal, as I am sure we all do. 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.
Both sides now need to consider whether there is sufficient willingness to compromise and move beyond existing positions to get us to an agreement in time. We are ready to do that, and this letter sets out what I regard as a reasonable compromise: the broad landing zone in which I believe a deal can begin to take shape.
Our proposed compromise removes the so-called ‘backstop’ in the previous Withdrawal Agreement. I have explained the difficulties with this elsewhere, including the fact that it has been rejected three times by the UK Parliament.
Equally importantly in this context, the backstop acted as a bridge to a proposed future relationship with the EU in which the UK would be closely integrated with EU customs arrangements and would align with EU law in many areas. That proposed future relationship is not the goal of the current UK Government. The Government intends that the future relationship should be based on a Free Trade Agreement in which the UK takes control of its own regulatory affairs and trade policy. In these circumstances the proposed ‘backstop’ is a bridge to nowhere, and a new way forward must be found.
Accordingly we are now proposing a new Protocol on Ireland / Northem Ireland. We are delivering the draft legal text of this Protocol to Task Force 50 today. I attach an explanatory note giving further detail of the proposal and I am making this letter and that note public today.
It is based around five elements.
First and foremost, our proposal is centred on our commitment to find solutions which are compatible with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
This framework is the fundamental basis for governance in Northern Ireland and protecting it is the highest priority for all.
Second, it confirms our commitment to long-standing areas of UK / Ireland collaboration, including those provided for in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, but also others, in some cases predating the European Union: the Common Travel Area, the rights of all those living in Northern Ireland, and North/South cooperation. These were set out in the previous Protocol and should be maintained in the new one.
Third, it provides for the potential creation of an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland, covering all goods including agrifood. For as long as it exists, this zone would eliminate all regulatory checks for trade in goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland by ensuring that goods regulations in Northern Ireland are the same as those in the rest of the EU.
Fourth, this regulatory zone must depend on the consent of those affected by it. This is essential to the acceptability of arrangements under which part of the UK accepts the rules of a different political entity. It is fundamental to democracy. 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. If consent is not secured, the arrangements will lapse. The same should apply to the Single Electricity Market, which raises the same principles.
Fifth, and finally, under these arrangements Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory, not the EU Customs Union, after the end of the transition period. It has always been a fundamental point for this Government that the UK will leave the EU customs union at the end of the transition period. We must do so whole and entire. Control of trade policy is fundamental to our future vision.
This is entirely compatible with maintaining an open border in Northern Ireland. Goods trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland makes up a little over one per cent of UK-EU total trade in goods. It is entirely reasonable to manage this border in a different way. Any risks arising will be manageable in both the EU single market and the UK market, particularly as all third country imports will continue to be controlled by the EU and UK customs authorities.
We are proposing that all customs processes needed to ensure compliance with the UK and EU customs regimes should take place on a decentralised basis, with paperwork conducted electronically as goods move between the two countries, and with the very small number of physical checks needed conducted at traders’ premises or other points on the supply chain. To enable this, we should both put in place specific, workable improvements and simplifications to existing customs rules between now and the end of the transition period, in the spirit of finding
flexible and creative solutions to these particular circumstances. These arrangements can be underpinned by close cooperation between UK and Irish authorities. All this must be coupled with a firm commitment (by both parties) never to conduct checks at the border in future.
Overall, we recognise that our proposals will mean changes from the situation that prevails in Ireland and Northern Ireland now. Our common task is to make sure that these changes entail as little day-to-day disruption as possible to the current situation. I believe that our proposals will achieve that.
Finally, in order to support Northern Ireland through this transition, and in collaboration with others with an interest, this Government proposes a New Deal for Northern Ireland, with appropriate commitments to help boost economic growth and Northern Ireland’s competitiveness, and to support infrastructure projects, particularly with a cross-border focus.
Taken together, these proposals respect the decision taken by the people of the UK to leave the EU, while dealing pragmatically with that decision’s consequences in Northern Ireland and in Ireland.
– They provide for continued regulatory alignment for a potentially prolonged period across the whole island of Ireland after the end of the transition period, for as long as the people of Northern Ireland agree to that.
– They mean that EU rules cannot be maintained indefinitely if they are not wanted – correcting a key defect of the backstop arrangements.
– They provide for a meaningful Brexit in which UK trade policy is fully under UK control from the start.
– They ensure that the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will remain open, enabling the huge gains of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement to be protected.
I hope that these proposals can now provide the basis for rapid negotiations towards a solution, together with finalisation of the necessary changes to the Political Declaration reflecting the goal of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, so that an Article 50 agreement can be reached, and the UK can leave the EU in an orderly fashion on 31 October. This will allow us to focus on the positive future relationship that I believe is in all of our interests.
I am copying this letter and paper to other members of the European Council and to Michel Barnier.
JACK DOYLE: The PM threw down the gauntlet to Brussels – but will the EU play ball or turn over the negotiating table before Boris has even sat down?
His first speech as PM was everything they were hoping for: impassioned, optimistic and funny.
On Brexit he was typically bullish about leaving on time, and rattled through plans that he promised would build a ‘positive new partnership’ with the EU.
With his bombastic battle-cry of ‘Get Brexit Done’, Boris Johnson left the Conservative Party Conference stage to ecstatic applause at the Manchester Convention Centre
No longer can critics accuse him of not trying to get a deal; he has presented a serious proposal and thrown down the gauntlet to Brussels.
The stakes could hardly be higher on both sides. The blamegame has truly begun.
Boris’s blueprint is radically different from anything Theresa May even considered, and arises from a combination of principle and political necessity.
Johnson has long argued that Mrs May’s deal would have made trade deals impossible. He wants us to be free to go our own way after Brexit.
The logical consequence of that position is there must be a customs border between Northern Ireland and the south.
But there will be no border checks – which would inflame nationalist sentiment.
The Prime Minister (pictured with Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid) was typically bullish about Brexit and rattled through plans that he promised would build a ‘positive new partnership’ with the EU
For example, an Australian tractor would face checks as it crossed from Liverpool to Belfast to make sure it met product standards.
If it was then moved across the border to Dublin, it would be tracked and would face customs checks where it left and where it arrived.
But what about regulatory checks, which Brussels insists are needed on goods entering the EU?
On this, Mr Johnson – and his allies in the DUP – have offered a significant compromise which would see Northern Ireland follow EU rules.
He has taken the two border challenges – customs and regulations – and split them between the two sides.
Call it a fudge if you like, it is a workable attempt to solve an intractable problem.
Boris’s blueprint is radically different from anything Theresa May even considered, and arises from a combination of principle and political necessity (pictured with girlfriend Carrie Symonds)
To sweeten the bitter pill of having laws for Northern Ireland set by Brussels, the Northern Ireland Assembly and executive must sign off the plan now and every four years.
With some considerable force in his letter Mr Johnson said these votes were ‘fundamental to democracy’.
As soon as the proposals were published, all eyes were on Arlene Foster of the DUP.
Would her party declare ‘no surrender’ and kill it off? No. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr Johnson at a raucous Tory conference rally on Tuesday night, it was clear they were fully inside the tent.
In theory, these developments could unlock a narrow majority in Parliament.
Many of the 21 Tory MPs who were stripped of the whip will still vote for a deal. With the DUP onside, that’s ten more.
And if the DUP don’t object, most of the European Research Group will back the deal, as could more than a dozen Labour MPs.
So what is Brussels’ next move?
If Brussels were to dismiss the deal or place impossible obstacles in its path it would be a sign they are listening to Remainers such as Tony Blair and Dominic Grieve, who say there should be a second referendum with an option to stay.
For some – though not all – EU leaders, this would be a preferred outcome.
On the other hand, perhaps Emmanuel Macron will seize a chance to kick Britain out as quickly as possible? Will Angela Merkel be as uncompromising as when she stifled David Cameron’s renegotiation? Will Varadkar realise he is in a hole, facing a No Deal disaster?
Surprisingly, it is Cognacswilling commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in whom senior ministers are investing hope. Shortly to retire, doing a Brexit deal would be a lasting legacy.
Turning the deal down would surely be a tactical error.
There is a slim possibility of Remainer MPs getting their acts together enough to force a second referendum, and it would string things out for months if not years.
Much more likely is that the courts force the UK to follow the terms of the so-called ‘Surrender Act’ – which prevents a No Deal Brexit – and delay our leaving the EU, prompting a general election.
If the polls are right, Mr Johnson could triumph, and with a Commons majority he would be in a much stronger position.
The threat was clear in Mr Johnson’s conference speech: ‘Let us be in no doubt that the alternative is No Deal.’
Last night, No 10 officials said that if the answer is a flat ‘No’, Mr Johnson won’t even attend the summit in two weeks’ time when the deal would be signed off. So EU leaders have a choice.
They can engage, be pragmatic and try to find a solution.
Or they can turn over the negotiating table and walk away before Boris Johnson has even sat down.