Johnson plans N Ireland 'special relationship' with EU for Brexit

British PM will deliver 'final' Brexit offer to party faithful on Wednesday, before EU summit on October 17. '

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new Brexit plan will leave Northern Ireland in a 'special relationship' with the European Union until 2025, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Tuesday, insisting he would take the UK out of the EU, whatever happens, at the end of the month.

    The Johnson plan would mean Northern Ireland would remain in large parts of the EU single market for at least five years, but that it would leave the customs union along with the rest of the UK, according to the report.

    Johnson is due to unveil his final Brexit offer on Wednesday, insisting in his closing speech to the annual conference of his ruling Conservative Party that his plan is a "reasonable compromise" and offers the last chance to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit.

    Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist party (DUP) is largely "content" with the proposals, the Guardian newspaper reported separately, adding that the plan was supported by the party’s leader Arlene Foster.

    However, Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the proposals would not provide the basis for a deal with the EU and were "concerning."

    Speaking to Ireland’s Virgin Media One television station Coveney said: "We haven't seen anything ... But if the reports we are reading this evening are true, it doesn't seem like the basis for agreement, that's for sure."

    Johnson has said Britain will leave the EU on this year's October 31 deadline, even if he has not failed to secure a new deal.

    "My friends, I am afraid that after three-and-a-half years people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools,” Johnson will tell the party conference, according to extracts released by his office. “They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don't want Brexit delivered at all.

    "Let's get Brexit done on October 31 so in 2020 our country can move on."

    Fears of 'no-deal' impact

    Brexit, the country's biggest trade and foreign policy shift in more than 40 years, remains uncertain amid staunch opposition in parliament to a "no-deal Brexit" that legislators fear will cause the country untold damage.

    New legislation requires the prime minister to request a Brexit delay if he fails to secure an acceptable deal at the EU summit on October 17.

    The EU has repeatedly asked Britain to come up with "legal and operational" proposals for the changes Johnson wants for the deal his predecessor, Theresa May, negotiated with the bloc last year.

    That deal was also voted down by parliament, including by hardliners in his own party who want a clean break with Europe. 

    UK: Alliance of rebel, opposition MPs seek to prevent 'no-deal' Brexit

    Johnson, who leads a minority government, has insisted he would "in no circumstances" seek to delay Brexit at the summit. 

    The plan centres on the so-called backstop in May's deal, which aimed to keep open the land border between Northern Ireland, which is governed by Britain, and Ireland, which is part of the EU.

    May's proposal would have kept Britain in an effective customs union with the EU, which critics argued would force Britain to abide by the bloc's rules indefinitely.

    Under the plans reported in the Telegraph, Johnson would, in effect, create two potentially new borders - regulatory checks in the Irish Sea, and customs checks on the island of Ireland.

    The border issue is hugely controversial because the removal of border posts was seen as key to bringing peace to Northern Ireland after three decades of violence that left thousands of people dead.

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    SOURCE: News agencies