Border problem in Ireland? Boris has a plan for this: how does the course of a refrigerator explain how an agreement on Brexit can work
- Johnson met Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Merseyside on Thursday afternoon
- After three hours of discussions, the two sides agreed on a "path to a possible agreement".
- What they have agreed is not yet fully known, but the Brexit Secretary has submitted a plan to the EU
What was the original plan?
Boris Johnson's original plan would have seen Northern Ireland leave the EU's customs union, as part of the single market.
Dublin argued that this would require a customs border, which would violate the Good Friday agreement.
In addition, the EU said it would not accept Mr Johnson's call to lift or simplify customs rules in order to keep cross-border trade in Ireland as free as possible. The British plan was to get customs controls "across the border", but critics called the measure "vague".
The initial plan would have given the Northern Ireland Assembly a vote every four years on the new provisions.
Dublin said that it was giving up a virtually permanent veto to the Democratic Unionists in Stormont.
Johnson met with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday in Merseyside, with little hope of progress. But after three hours of discussions, they agreed on a "path to a possible agreement".
What they agreed on is not yet fully known. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay briefed Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for Brexit, yesterday at a meeting called a "constructive" meeting.
How does the trip to a refrigerator explain how the deal can work?
Will this solve the problem of customs?
Sources said yesterday that Johnson had agreed to effectively remove any customs border between NI and the Republic – and replace it with a system in which the province would be simultaneously in the EU's customs zones and from the United Kingdom.
Customs controls would take place at a new administrative border on the Irish Sea, companies paying EU customs duties on goods traveling from the British mainland to Northern Ireland.
This would mean that the United Kingdom would levy customs duties on the goods on behalf of the EU. Goods destined for Ireland will then be free to go there without stopping at the border. If the products are intended for NI, companies may request a discount to reflect a possibly lower rate in the UK.
The single market?
NI would remain "aligned" with EU rules and regulations. Checks take place when the goods are traveling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, thus avoiding the need for checks between Ulster and the Republic.
Johnson's plan stems from the "customs partnership" once championed by Theresa May. It would also have allowed NI to remain in the customs union but to take advantage of the trade agreements concluded by the United Kingdom.
Last year, Johnson described the idea as "a foolish system that ended up collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU at the British border" – exactly what he is now proposing. The EU has also rejected this idea.
Mr Johnson's plan only concerns Northern Ireland, while Mrs May extends to the whole of the United Kingdom. This reduces the level of bureaucracy because trade between the continent and Ulster is significantly lower than the huge volumes transiting through ports such as Felixstowe and Dover.
Johnson met with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday in Merseyside, with little hope of progress. But after three hours of discussions, they agreed on a "path to a possible agreement" (photo together after the meeting).
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay yesterday presented Michel Barnier, chief EU negotiator for Brexit, with the outline of a meeting called "constructive" (photo together Friday).
Johnson would have abandoned Stormont's four-year vote plan. A form of democratic "consent" is likely, if only to honor the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
The other 27 members of the European Union decided yesterday to open intensive tunnel negotiations on the latest proposals. Accelerated negotiations will take place over the weekend and could be completed by Wednesday. If an agreement is reached in Brussels, it could be put to a vote in Westminster on Saturday 19 October.
Will the members buy it?
It has largely abandoned the bulk of the Labor MPs who are determined to stop at all costs a Tory Brexit. The Liberal Democrats and the SNP will also vote against. No. 10 will spend the week convincing the remaining Tory who have been thrown to get back on board. However, the chances of an agreement being approved remain slim.