PM to reveal plan

Johnson denies customs posts solution to Irish Brexit obstacle

Boris Johnson in the US

Boris Johnson is promising a deal

Customs clearance posts between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are not part of Boris Johnson’s plans to end the Brexit deadlock.

The Prime Minister today played down the idea that there would be ‘customs clearance centres’, and said the EU was responding to previous ideas put forward. 

‘That’s not what we are proposing at all,’ he said.

It was reported from Dublin that plan is based on an “all-Ireland economic zone” as a substitute to the the backstop which would see Northern Ireland remain tied to some EU trading rules. This has been played down. However, the new plan does seem to involve Northern Ireland following some EU regulations.

Mr Johnson said: ‘The difficulty really is going to be around the customs union and to what extent Northern Ireland can be retained within EU bodies at all.

“We’re going to make a very good offer, we are going to be tabling it very soon, but there is a difficulty if you try to keep Northern Ireland in a customs union because one of the basic things about being a country is you have a single customs perimeter and a single customs union.”

According to a report from Ireland, UK ministers have prepared the revised legal text of an updated agreement for the UK’s exit from the EU which is expected to be made public as early as tomorrow.

Irish media service RTÉ News said it had seen a copy of the proposals which would effectively mean customs posts being erected on both sides of the border, but located five to ten miles from the actual land frontier.

Mr Johnson says this is not part of his plans. The idea would prove highly controversial and the CBI in Northern Ireland has cautioned against its viability and acceptance.

Mr Johnson has been promising a new agreement ahead of a crucial EU summit on 17 October, though Downing Street said nothing had yet been finalised.

However, it is thought he will give further details of the proposals in his address to Tory members tomorrow.

RTE reported that under the proposed transit scheme, the exporter becomes a registered ‘consigner’ at base, and the importer becomes a registered ‘consignee’.

The method requires a bond from a financial institution to guarantee that the relevant customs duty, excise and VAT have been paid and that the goods do not go illegally off the beaten track en route.

RTE said the UK proposals have been discussed in technical talks with the European Commission’s Brexit Task Force under Michel Barnier.

Mr Johnson told the Conservative party conference on Monday: “I’m cautiously optimistic. We have made some pretty big moves, we are waiting to see whether our European friends will help us and whether we can find the right landing zone.”

A law was rushed through parliament – the so-called Benn Act – requiring Mr Johnson to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline beyond 31 October if he is unable to get MPs to approve a no-deal Brexit by 19 October.

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