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Johnson’s secret Brexit solution revealed

By Jonathan Powell | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-10-02 16:57
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen outside the venue for the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

The British government's revised Brexit plans are due to be revealed to European Union officials this week, with the proposals understood to include customs clearance zones in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

It is thought British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plans to solve the Irish border Brexit challenge may involve the use of technology such as real-time tracking devices on heavy goods vehicles.

The blueprint is an attempt to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop, which has been the sticking point for passing the existing withdrawal deal through Parliament, and for which the EU has shown little inclination to flex on.

The current government says the solution reached by the EU and former prime minister Theresa May is unacceptable and an alternative to it must be found.

The BBC reported that the revised plan accepts the needs for customs checks on the island of Ireland, but that they would need to be conducted away from the border. The customs formalities would be carried out at the point where the goods originate or at their final destination.

The Irish broadcaster RTE reported that the string of customs posts, which would be maybe 8 to 16 kilometers away from the frontier, were in proposals due to be floated by the United Kingdom government.

However, UK officials have denied this, adding only that they remain hopeful that negotiations with the EU will resume by the end of the week.

In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, the prime minister rejected the claims that the plans would effectively mean a hard border, which has been fiercely opposed.

The prime minister said: "They are not talking about the proposals that we are actually going to be tabling. They are talking about some stuff that went in previously.

We will be tabling some proposals shortly, with our EU friends in Brussels, and with our Irish friends as well. We'll be making a very good offer, though I've seen some briefing that is not quite right."

He added: "A sovereign united country must have a single customs territory," but refused to give further details and said that formal proposals would be made soon.

"I'd like to veil our proposals in decent obscurity, until we've been able to share them properly with our friends," he said.

Johnson insisted the government had made "a great deal of progress" in negotiations since August, and they were working "flat out to get a deal".

Government sources told the BBC it had prepared the legal text of an updated Brexit deal and would be making more plans public in the coming days.

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