Tories Unite Behind Johnson’s Plan But EU Balks: Brexit Update
(Bloomberg) — Follow @Brexit and sign up to our Brexit Bulletin. Boris Johnson is winning the battle for Conservative support after outlining his new Brexit proposals in Parliament. The prime minister said he has been encouraged by constructive conversations he has had with European Union leaders — but a deal is still some way away.Tory members of Parliament on both sides of the Brexit debate gave their backing to Johnson. If the deal can get through the U.K.’s ruling party, there is a chance it could pass a vote in the House of Commons.But that does not mean it will be acceptable to the EU. European ambassadors will discuss the proposals this afternoon and officials warn that major stumbling blocks remain.Key Developments:Rival factions of Tory party back Johnson’s approachIrish premier Leo Varadkar says U.K. plan creates “a real difficulty that’s going to be very hard to reconcile”EU Parliament’s Brexit committee has “grave concerns” over Johnson’s proposalJohnson to talk to Donald Tusk later on ThursdayMust read: Currency Traders Doubt Johnson’s DeadlineJohnson May Visit European Leaders on Weekend (5.55 p.m.)The prime minister may travel to various European capital cities this weekend to speak with counterparts about his Brexit proposals, according to two officials.The premier is also expected to hold more telephone calls with EU leaders over the coming days, a spokeswoman for Johnson said. On Wednesday he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.DUP’s Foster Attacks Coveney, Warns Stormont Consent is Vital (4.15 p.m.)DUP leader Arlene Foster attacked Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney, accusing him of rejecting a “reasonable offer” and “paving the way for a no-deal Brexit.”Earlier, (see 12.30 p.m.) Coveney said his government could never accept any proposal which gives Northern Ireland’s assembly and executive an effective veto over measures needed to avoid a hard border in Ireland.But Foster warned Northern Ireland would not be “trapped at the whim of Dublin or the EU” and maintained the region will leave the “EU, customs union and single market alongside the rest of the U.K.”EU’s Tusk Criticizes U.K. Plan (3:30 p.m.)European Council President Donald Tusk said he’s “unconvinced” by Johnson’s proposals. After speaking separately to Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar this afternoon, Tusk tweeted that he stands “fully behind Ireland.”“My message to PM Boris Johnson: We remain open but unconvinced,” he said.Some Labour MPs May Back Deal (3 p.m.)With Johnson’s Tories rallying behind his proposals, there are signs also that some Labour MPs may be prepared to support the deal.“If I’m confronted between this deal and a no-deal Brexit, then I will vote for a deal,” Melanie Onn told ITV’s “Peston” show late on Wednesday. Ruth Smeeth tweeted that she wants a deal that protects her constituents and the peace process in Northern Ireland, adding that “if the EU 27 support it then so will I.”Meanwhile, Stephen Kinnock, who’s been coordinating Labour MPs who want to back a deal, told the BBC that to earn his support, the political declaration part of the deal must be changed. He wants promises on workers’ rights and the environment in line with those negotiated in May between former Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour.On Kinnock’s point, Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack on Thursday was at pains to point out that with the U.K. free to set its own standards after Brexit, “this gives us an opportunity to have higher standards than the EU.”Veto a Problem in Brexit Plan, Irish PM Says (2:23 p.m.)Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar laid out the two key problems with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposal to break the Brexit logjam. Speaking to reporters in Stockholm, he suggested the idea of giving the power-sharing assembly in Northern Ireland a say over rule alignment with the EU risked giving one party a veto over the measures needed to avoid a hard border in Ireland after Brexit.He also said he didn’t understand how border checks could be avoided if Northern Ireland left the customs union. Standing alongside him, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said a deal was possible, but “question marks” remained around the U.K.’s plan.The Northern Irish Veto That Could Torpedo Johnson’s Brexit PlanEU Parliament Slams Johnson’s Plan (2:15 p.m.)The Brexit committee of the European Parliament “has grave concerns about the U.K. proposal as tabled,” it said in a statement. The measures “do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop.”The committee’s view is significant because it reflects opinions across the political spectrum of the assembly, which has a veto over the final deal. The committee is also in constant contact with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his team, so it’s fair to assume that its view largely sums up what the bloc currently thinks.Tories Uniting Behind Johnson Plan (12:55 p.m.)In a positive sign for the prime minister, Conservatives on both sides of the Brexit debate gave his plan — and his softer tone — a warm welcome.Steve Baker and John Baron are both staunch Brexit campaigners who opposed the previous withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May. On Thursday, they welcomed Johnson’s proposal.Baker said the plan offered a “glimpse” of the possibility of a “tolerable” deal. Baron said Johnson had produced “improved proposals.”On the other side, pro-EU former ministers Stephen Hammond and Greg Clark — who were ejected from the Tory party after voting against Johnson’s orders last month — also backed the prime minister.Hammond said he “warmly” welcomed the fact Johnson had put forward proposals, as well as his “constructive tone.” If the deal can get through the Tory party, and with the DUP on board, there is a chance it could pass a vote in Parliament. But that does not mean it will be acceptable to the EU.Intense Negotiations Are Under Way (12:51 p.m.)This afternoon, Johnson will speak to European Council President Donald Tusk in the latest sign that a round of frantic diplomacy is under way to try to reach a deal, under serious time constraints. Over the next 10 days, there will be intense negotiations between both sides, a U.K. spokesman told reporters in London. Johnson’s own Europe adviser will speak to his counterpart in Brussels over the next 24 hours.Ireland Says Can’t Accept Stormont Veto (12:30 p.m.)Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said his government could never accept any proposal which gives Northern Ireland’s Assembly and Executive an effective veto over measures needed to avoid a hard border in Ireland.Speaking in parliament in Dublin, he said there’s “no point” in having proposals that one side, even a minority, can veto. Under current rules, a third of the members in Northern Ireland’s 90-strong power-sharing assembly can effectively block a measure they don’t like.SNP Vows to Bring Johnson Down (12:02 p.m.)The Scottish National Party stands prepared to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson from office if he chooses to ignore the law that requires him to delay Brexit if he hasn’t got a deal by Oct. 19.“Be warned, secure an extension or resign,” the party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, told the Commons. “If not, the SNP stand ready to bring this government down.”Johnson: Now Is Time for Rapid Negotiations (11:40 a.m.)Updating Parliament, Johnson stressed that he believed his blueprint represents “a compromise” from the U.K. government and urged the EU to agree to engage in “rapid negotiations” for a deal. But while talks with EU leaders have been constructive, an agreement is still “some way” away, he said.“We have made a genuine attempt to bridge the chasm, to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable — and to go the extra mile as time runs short,” Johnson told the House of Commons.Johnson said the U.K. had already made a “guarantee” that it will never conduct checks on goods crossing the Irish border — a key issue in the negotiations. “And we believe that the EU should do the same,” he said.“Our proposals should now provide the basis for rapid negotiations towards a solution in the short time that remains.”The prime minister’s tone was moderate, emphasizing that he wants to do a deal with the EU. But he repeated his warning that Britain is “ready” to leave the bloc without one if European leaders don’t meet him half-way.Johnson’s Five Principles in His Bid to Break Brexit DeadlockWhen Juncker and Varadkar speak (11:23 a.m.)European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will have a telephone conversation with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday afternoon, a commission spokeswoman said.The EU is “analyzing” but already has “many questions” on Johnson’s Brexit plan,”spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told reporters in Brussels.Cox Says Can Obey Law, Leave With No Deal (10:20 a.m.)Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the government won’t break the law as it seeks to take the country out of the EU with or without a deal on Oct. 31.“The government will obey the law, the government is subject to the law and this government will comply with it,” Cox told the House of Commons when asked whether the government will obey the law requiring Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek to delay Brexit if he hasn’t got a deal past Parliament by Oct. 19. Asked whether the government can both comply with the law and leave the EU without a deal on Oct. 31, he simply said “yes.”Barclay Says EU Negotiations to Start By Weekend (8:25 a.m.)Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said he expects negotiations with the U.K.’s EU counterparts to start by the weekend.“We need to move forward at pace, intensively,” he told BBC radio in an interview.Barclay also pointed to a major concession by the U.K. that may rile some anti-EU backbench Members of Parliament in Johnson’s Conservatives: The continued influence of the European Court of Justice after Brexit.“There is a continued role for the ECJ in terms of the regulatory zone as part of these proposals and that is one of the areas that we have been willing to be creative and flexible on,” Barclay said. “But it is crucially with the consent of the community in Northern Ireland. The concern with the backstop was this aspect of laws applying over which people had no say.”Ireland Says ‘Huge Issues’ Remain (Earlier)The U.K. proposals to break the Brexit impasse form the basis for more talks, but not a deal, junior Irish finance minister Patrick O’Donovan said on Thursday in an RTE Radio interview. “Huge issues” remain on the question of customs checks, which he said were “unacceptable,” and questioned how the Northern Irish power-sharing assembly might exercise consent over the rule alignment needed to avoid a hard border.Earlier:Boris Johnson Is Running Out of Time: Brexit BulletinWhat Boris Johnson Didn’t Say in His U.K. Tory Conference SpeechJohnson’s Brexit Plan: The Sticking Points for the U.K. and EUJohnson’s Five Principles in His Bid to Break Brexit DeadlockWill Johnson’s Irish Border Plans End Brexit Impasse?: QuickTake\–With assistance from Tiago Ramos Alfaro, Ian Wishart, Jessica Shankleman, Dara Doyle and Peter Flanagan.To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Tim Ross in London at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org, Alex MoralesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.