In another frantic week of Brexit negotiations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made it clear that Britain would be leaving the European Union on October 31st, “deal or no deal”.
Earlier this week, the PM gave details of his final offer, known as “two border for 4 years”, made to the bloc. The outlined plans would involve Northern Ireland leaving the customs union but remaining in the single market. The Northern Irish Assembly would be granted the option of vetoing the arrangement every 4 years. However, the EU refused to accept the so called “Stormont Lock”. Under these terms, if Northern Ireland has to change its rules to comply with EU regulations in order for the Irish backstop to be implemented, so will the rest of the UK. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier described the idea as being a “non-runner”. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister sought to rectify the situation with a compromise, suggesting that the UK could allow Northern Ireland to remain politically within the EU’s Customs Union, though administered by the UK. DUP leader Nigel Duds was quick to assert his party’s position on the compromise: “It cannot work because Northern Ireland has to remain fully part of the UK customs union.” His comments dampened any prospect of a deal being ratified in the House of Commons after European Research Group said that MPs would back the concessions.
The Prime Minister spoke to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on Tuesday outlining his proposals for a deal. According to a Number 10 source, she made it clear that a deal on those terms would be “overwhelmingly unlikely”. However, a meeting between Johnson and Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, at Thornton Manor in the Wirral on Thursday was described by the Taoiseach as “very positive”. The pair released a joint statement in which it was said that a Brexit deal “is in everybody’s interest and they can see a pathway to a possible deal”. On Friday, Brexit secretary Steve Barclay met with EU’s Michel Barnier, with both men agreeing to pursue more “intensive talks” in the coming days. European Council President, Donald Tusk, was more hopeful that a deal could yet be reached, telling reporters that “the hope is maybe a little bit bigger and more tangible than two or three days ago, you can never be sure in politics, sometimes the positive signs are only political tricks”.
On October 17th, Boris Johnson agreed a deal with EU before a meeting of European leaders in Brussels. However, the DUP have said they could not back the proposals “as things stand”.