U.K.’s Johnson warns of violating the public trust without Brexit


The Associated Press

MANCHESTER, England — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will send what he called a “constructive and reasonable” compromise for a Brexit deal to the European Union today, as he warned of grave consequences for trust in democracy if Britain fails to leave the bloc in less than a month.

British voters in 2016 narrowly chose to leave the EU but the country remains deeply divided over the departure terms. In a speech today to the Conservative Party’s annual conference, Johnson underscored the fear of violating public belief in democracy should Brexit not happen.

“After three and a half years, people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools,” he told party members in Manchester, northern England. “They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all. And if they turn out to be right in that suspicion, then I believe there will be grave consequences for trust in our democracy.”

The new British plans are likely to face deep skepticism from EU leaders, who doubt the U.K. has a workable plan to avoid checks on goods or people crossing the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland after Brexit.

Johnson insisted that there would not be customs checks at the border in Northern Ireland under the proposed deal, one of the main sticking points of the Brexit talks.

“We will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland,” he declared.

A Brexit agreement between the EU and his predecessor, Theresa May, was rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament, largely because of opposition to the “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to ensure there is no return to customs posts or other infrastructure on the Irish border.

An open border underpins both the local economy and Northern Ireland’s peace process. But Johnson and other British Brexit supporters oppose the backstop because it would keep the U.K. tightly bound to EU trade rules in order to avoid customs checks — limiting the country’s ability to strike new trade deals around the world.

So far, the U.K. has floated the idea of a common area for livestock and agricultural products, plus largely untested “technological solutions” as a replacement for the backstop.

The Daily Telegraph reported the new U.K. plan proposes to keep Northern Ireland in a regulatory zone with the EU for food, agricultural and industrial products until 2025. The EU has previously rejected any proposals that contain a time limit.

By Patricia Older

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