Boris Johnson 'has Brexit blueprint'... but he can't reveal it to EU chiefs as he is terrified it will be leaked to public
- Sources say EU negotiators being ‘shown pieces of paper’ outlining PM's plan
- The move came as No 10 revealed Brexit talks would step up from next week
- It has also emerged that the PM will soon discuss his plans with Angela Merkel
Downing Street yesterday hit back at claims by senior EU figures that the Prime Minister has yet to explain the changes he wants to see.
Government sources said EU negotiators were being ‘shown pieces of paper’ giving the outline of Mr Johnson’s plans, including the removal of the controversial Irish backstop.
The move came as No 10 revealed Brexit talks would step up from being twice a week to daily from next week as the UK searches for a deal. It also emerged that the PM will discuss his plans with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at next week’s UN general assembly in New York.
But sources acknowledged that Mr Johnson’s full blueprint may not be published until next month because of fears EU members would leak it and risk a row at the Conservative Party conference.
Boris Johnson (pictured in Luxembourg yesterday) has started to share details of his Brexit blueprint with the EU as talks on a possible deal intensify, according to Government sources
Downing Street sources confirmed that Mr Johnson’s Brexit envoy David Frost has so far only shown his EU counterparts the parts of Theresa May’s deal he wants removed, focusing on the backstop.
‘We showed them the text of the Northern Ireland protocol, without the backstop in it, to show them the precision of the removal that we’re looking for, so they could understand what would still be left,’ a source said.
‘We haven’t shown them a new legal text. Essentially we have shown them what we want removing.’ The source said that UK documents were being removed at the end of meetings with the EU to prevent them being leaked.
‘The minute you share anything, you’re literally firing it to 27 capitals,’ they added. ‘The institutions feel they have this duty to share. Once you share it with 27 countries, you’re not in control of the document. You’ve got to be sensible about it.’
Details of Mr Johnson’s plans will not be released until after the conference finishes on October 2 – just two weeks before a crunch EU summit seen as the last chance to strike a deal.
The blueprint involves creating an ‘all-Ireland’ agricultural zone, which would remove the need for checks on livestock and food at the Irish border. The DUP has indicated it could live with the idea, even though it would almost certainly mean enhanced checks on food products crossing to the mainland UK.
But it would also require Brussels to accept that technological customs checks on manufactured goods are kept to a minimum and carried out away from the border.
Mr Johnson is also pushing for the devolved assembly in Northern Ireland to have a ‘lock’ on the extent to which the province is required to follow EU rules.
The UK’s failure to produce a ‘legally operative’ alternative plan has angered EU leaders, with Jean-Claude Juncker warning Mr Johnson this week it was impossible to make progress without one (the pair are pictured together in Luxembourg yesterday)
Ministers argue the measure is essential to ensure the post-Brexit arrangements comply with the Good Friday Agreement.
But the Stormont assembly has not sat for more than two and a half years. And Brussels is loath to accept the idea of devolving power over issues that protect the integrity of the single market.
The UK’s failure to produce a ‘legally operative’ alternative plan has angered EU leaders, with Jean-Claude Juncker warning Mr Johnson this week it was impossible to make progress without one.
Sources said Mr Juncker told the PM that ‘the door (to a deal) is not closed’, but warned him the EU could not countenance dropping the Irish backstop until the UK could show it had an alternative plan for preventing a hard border.
But ministers were encouraged by a backlash against Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel, who tried to embarrass Mr Johnson on Monday by staging a joint press conference in front of a noisy crowd of anti-Brexit protesters.
Mr Johnson pulled out of the event after Mr Bettel refused to move it indoors –leaving the Luxembourger to deliver an angry anti-Brexit rant while gesturing at the British PM’s empty lectern.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland described Mr Bettel’s behaviour as ‘an unfortunate media stunt’.
And it also drew criticism from EU diplomats. The senior German MP Norbert Rottgen, a close ally of Mrs Merkel, said Mr Bettel’s speech ‘did not serve the European cause’.