Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Johnson calls EU leaders in new Brexit talks

The EU is waiting for concrete proposals from the UK on how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, the European Commission has said, prior to a phone call between UK prime minister Boris Johnson and commission head Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday (27 August).

"It is up to the UK government to come with concrete proposals that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement," a commission spokesperson said earlier in the day.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Juncker and Johnson will have "an opportunity to touch base", the spokesperson added.

Johnson, who took up office in July, met EU leaders for the first time last week and also at a G7 summit at the weekend, but Juncker was not there due to health reasons.

They will speak after a group of British experts published a proposal on how to avoid a hard Irish border which did away with the "backstop" - a previous plan, denounced by Johnson, on keeping the UK in the customs union for the time being.

Johnson also spoke to Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday, who has emerged as an EU interlocutor for three successive UK prime ministers since the Brexit saga began three years ago.

"The EU-27 remain open to concrete proposals compatible with the withdrawal agreement: respect for the integrity of the single market and no hard border on the Irish isle," Rutte tweeted after his phone call with Johnson.

The backstop is the key stumbling block in clinching a divorce deal between the EU and the UK.

The UK parliament has rejected the withdrawal agreement with the backstop in place and Johnson has called it "anti-democratic".

It would only enter into life if the EU and the UK were unable to agree on a future trade deal after a two-year transition period, but it would also prevent the UK from signing its own trade deals, which was one of the Brexiteers' main demands, while it remained in force.

The EU has repeatedly said that it was not willing to renegotiate the withdrawal deal, but Germany and France recently gave the UK 30 days to come up with alternatives.

Previous British ideas on using high-tech gadgets to screen border traffic would not be feasible for years according to trade experts.

But Johnson's Brexit point man, David Frost, will be in Brussels on Wednesday to kick off new talks "on a technical level", the commission also said.

Backstop alternative

The commission did not comment on a recent British legal experts' proposal on an alternative to the backstop, noting that new suggestions would have to come from the British government directly.

The proposal was drawn up by Jonathan Faull, a veteran former EU official who worked on Brexit prior to the referendum in 2016,

and academics Joseph Weiler and Daniel Sarmiento.

It says the UK and Ireland would make it a criminal offence to export goods across the border in Ireland that breached the EU's regulatory rules, and that trade hub and spot checks could serve as an alternative to border checks.

At the trade centres "goods destined for the EU or the UK respectively via Northern Ireland would be processed, including payment of duties and the like, before they actually left British or Irish territory," the experts suggested.

This would not compromise the EU's single market, they said, but it also would not bind the UK in the customs union, and could serve as the basis for a future trade agreement between the two sides.

They also said the issue could be dealt with in the political preamble to the withdrawal agreement, which would not require much renegotiation, or that the solution could be proclaimed in a legally binding commitment by EU leaders.

The EU's top court, whose jurisdiction Brexiteers want to do away with, would only be involved "regarding the interpretation of EU standards, as incorporated into UK law, when applied to UK exports to the EU internal market through Northern Ireland".

"[The proposal] will guarantee the integrity and autonomy of the EU's and UK's respective customs and regulatory territories, and will require neither a customs union between the two unless that is the wish of both, nor a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic," the experts said.

"The proposal puts two legal orders in interaction but preserving their autonomy, with a premise of mutual trust and sincere cooperation," they said.

US offers Johnson helping hand on Brexit

The US wants to help the UK cushion the blow of Brexit with a bilateral trade deal, the White House has said, as knives come out for Johnson in London.

Johnson's call for new Brexit deal hits EU 'no'

The UK will not nominate a new EU commissioner, the new British PM said in his first address to parliament, and insisted that the Irish backstop can be renegotiated - without giving any specifics on alternative solutions.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Opinion

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us