The EU restarted Brexit talks with Britain yesterday hoping to hear fresh ideas from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to answer grave European concerns about his new divorce deal proposal. Johnson’s Brexit envoy, senior diplomat David Frost, met EU officials in Brussels as the clock ticks down to Friday, the effective deadline for striking a new deal in time for an EU summit next week.
European leaders reacted skeptically to London’s suggestions last week for replacing the Brexit deal reached with Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, which was rejected by British MPs three times, to avoid Britain crashing out in a chaotic “no deal” on Oct. 31.
Serious doubts have been voiced about Johnson’s new proposals for avoiding a hard border between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland, particularly the details on customs procedure and the role of the Northern Irish assembly. Johnson wants Northern Ireland’s devolved assembly, which has been suspended for almost three years, to vote every four years on whether to maintain EU rather than British regulations there. He has also proposed the province leaves the EU’s customs union along with the rest of the U.K., with required checks to rely on untried technology and carried out away from the sensitive border. Brussels has said these plans are not a basis for an agreement.
Britain insists its offer represents significant concessions and now the EU must show similar flexibility, but Brussels is adamant it will not agree to any plan that undermines its single market or leaves Ireland exposed.