By Asif Hussain
LONDON (AA): Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans for Brexit appear to be unravelling, as negotiations with the EU on a new deal falter, while court papers reveal he will seek an extension for a deal beyond Oct. 31.
Johnson’s proposal, meant to form the basis of a deal to leave the EU, centers on a change to the Northern Ireland backstop arrangement, as it had been previously negotiated. The British government is now suggesting that Northern Ireland will leave the customs union territory, alongside the rest of U.K., but stay within a single market for goods and agriculture – an arrangement that would be reviewed every four years. The Northern Irish assembly would also be given the right to veto the arrangements every four years, even though the power-sharing assembly was dissolved more than two years ago.
Though the EU has not dismissed the suggestion out of hand, EU sources claim that such a proposal cannot form the basis of a new deal, simply because of the implications for the Northern Ireland peace process, where the idea of bringing back a hard border is very controversial.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier said Saturday at the French newspaper Le Monde event in Paris, “If they do not change, I do not believe, on the basis of the mandate I have been given by the EU27, that we can advance.”
“An agreement will be very difficult to reach, but it is still possible,” Barnier said.
“We are ready for no-deal, even if we don’t desire it,” he said. “No-deal will never be the choice of the EU. If it happens, it would be Britain’s choice.”
The failing negotiations with the EU come amid new revelations that Johnson had made representations to the Scottish courts that he would seek an extension from the EU beyond Oct. 31, despite consistently making statements to the contrary to both Parliament and the public.
Johnson’s position that the UK will leave the EU, deal or no deal, come what may on Oct. 31 stands completely at odds with the law, as the Benn Act, as it is known, forces the U.K. government to apply for an extension if no deal has been reached by Oct. 31.
Submissions made by the government to the Scottish courts in relation to the legality of suspending Parliament, a case the government lost late last month, now make it clear that Downing Street will indeed comply with the law as it stands.
It seems that not only are Johnson’s negotiating tactics failing, but he will be unable to follow through with a core repeated pledge to the public, that he will take the U.K. out of the EU on Oct. 31. As it stands, he now has less than 30 days to find a way out of this political conundrum.
Additional report by The Muslim News
[Photo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatens to leave EU by 31 October. Photographer: Issam Rimawi/AA]