Johnson battles to surmount EU opposition to Brexit plan
The EU has responded coolly to the U.K.'s plan for maintaining an open Irish border after Britain leaves the bloc
LONDON – Britain must provide “more realism and clarity” if there is to be a Brexit deal with the European Union in time for the country’s scheduled departure date from the bloc at the end of this month, the Dutch government said Monday.
Last week the British government sent the EU what it considers a “reasonable compromise.” But Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said after meeting Britain’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay that “important questions still remain.”
The British government insists that the country will leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal. Many in the EU – and in Britain – are skeptical of that claim, because the U.K. Parliament has passed a law compelling the government to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit if no deal is agreed by Oct. 19.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will obey the law, but will not ask for a delay. It’s unclear how the two statements can be reconciled.
Johnson was working the phones on Monday, speaking to a series of EU leaders, as he tried to overcome opposition to his proposal.
The EU has responded coolly to the U.K.’s plan for maintaining an open Irish border after Britain leaves the bloc. Both sides have agreed there must be no checks or infrastructure along the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland. Under the U.K. plan there would be customs checks, but Britain says they could be conducted away from the border.
EU officials oppose any customs checks, and are skeptical of U.K. claims they could be achieved through largely untested technology. EU leaders also have been sharply critical of a proposal that would give Northern Ireland’s legislature an effective veto on key elements of the Irish border arrangements in the future.
There is little time to secure a deal, with a key EU summit scheduled for Oct. 17-18.
Britain is keen to hold high-level face-to-face talks, but none have been scheduled so far, and it’s unclear whether Johnson will meet any EU leaders in person before next week’s summit.
“We are ready to talk with the EU at pace to secure a deal,” said Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack.
“We have set out a fair and sensible compromise and we’re now looking at the EU to match the compromises the U.K. has made.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has said the EU will decide by the end of this week whether an amicable divorce deal is possible.
Casert reported from Brussels.