- Boris Johnson is increasingly likely to ask for a Brexit delay this week.
- The prime minister wants to agree a new deal with the EU which would allow the UK to leave the bloc on October 31 as planned.
- However, while Johnson’s latest proposals have reignited talks, the EU believes his proposals are complicated, incomplete, and will take weeks to negotiate for there to be a deal.
- Johnson is set to travel to Brussels on Thursday for the European Council summit.
- He has previously said he would rather “be dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit.
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LONDON — Boris Johnson’s government is reportedly preparing to ask the European Union for a fresh Brexit delay “in all circumstances” as hopes of the United Kingdom and Brussels agreeing and ratifying a new deal by this month’s Brexit deadline begin to fade.
The pound surged last week when UK Prime Minister Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced they could see a “pathway” to a deal after holding private talks in Cheshire, northwest England.
The prime minister hopes to agree a deal this week before putting it to a House of Commons vote on Saturday.
However, more detailed talks between London and Brussels appear to have slowed with Buzzfeed News reporting that the UK government was now preparing for Brexit to be delayed beyond its current deadline of October 31, even if an outline of a deal can be agreed this week.
Johnson has proposed a new system for customs between Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the rest of the United Kingdom, in order to prevent a hard border on the Island of Ireland. This, in theory, would allow goods to move over the Irish border freely and without the need for customs checks.
However, while the EU is willing to discuss the proposal, officials in Brussels reportedly believe it does not go far enough, relies upon untested technologies, and will take weeks to flesh out.
The EU has highlighted a handful of problems with Johnson’s proposals, according to Tony Connelly, Europe editor at Irish publication RTE.
Under Johnson’s plan, goods that go from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and stay in Northern Ireland will be charged the EU tariff, meaning importers must claim for rebates if the UK tariff — the correct charge — is lower.
However, the EU believes the rebate system is complex and could take years to design, Connelly reports. The EU is also waiting for the UK to explain how goods will be tracked under these proposed arrangements.
An EU diplomatic source quoted in The Guardian newspaper said it would now be “impossible” for the UK to leave on October 31 with a “totally new concept” such as the new proposals put forward by Johnson over the weekend.
The question marks over the UK proposals mean that even if Johnson and other EU leaders agree a deal at the European Council summit this week, the latter will likely conclude it cannot be delivered by October 31.
Johnson has repeatedly insisted that the UK will leave the EU on October 31 and said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask EU leaders to delay Britain’s exit again.
However, under the terms of the Benn act passed by members of Parliament last month, the prime minister is compelled by law to request another extension to Article 50 if he cannot secure a deal by the end of this week.