Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Irish border plan is 'anti-democratic', Johnson tells EU

  • Return of hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland could jeopardise peace accord, critics have said (Photo: henrikjon)

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has sent an open letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk in order to reopen the discussion on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The letter was published ahead of talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron later this week.

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In his text, Johnson focused on the so-called 'backstop', which says the UK must stay in the EU's customs union until it finds a mutually acceptable way to maintain an open border between the two Irelands as well as fulfilling third-country customs obligations.

The UK leader called the backstop "anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK as a state".

"The backstop locks the UK, potentially indefinitely, into an international treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland", he wrote, adding that this goes against the very idea of Brexit.

Alternatively, Johnson proposed "that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship".

He did not make clear what his alternative arrangements were, however.

UK visa for EU citizens

The UK minister for home affairs, Priti Patel, also made public her plans to block EU citizens from freely entering the UK if the country left the EU without exit agreement by the end of October.

It is not clear if that meant that the UK would demand that EU citizens obtained a visa before visiting the country.

But the freedom of movement for EU citizens living in the UK as residents would not be affected, at least until the end of December 2019.

Patel's lack of detail prompted questions on whether her statement was serious or if it was meant to increase pressure on the EU in order to renegotiate the Brexit deal of former prime minister Theresa May.

The EU remains "unconvinced"

During a regional visit on 19 August, Johnson said he was confident that the EU would back down on the backstop and renegotiate the deal.

However, comments from EU officials seemed to suggest otherwise.

One EU source told The Guardian, a British newspaper, that there had been "a two-and-a-half-year negotiating process in which the EU [already] compromised, including on the question of the backstop".

"The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation and the backstop is not open for change. A legally operable backstop to avoid a hard border remains central to the withdrawal agreement for the EU27," the source added.

The new British moves come after the leak of an internal report warning that a no-deal-Brexit would seriously harm the UK economy.

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