Published On: Fri, Sep 6th, 2019

Brexit victory for Boris: Breakthrough as EU finally agrees to listen to backstop plan | UK | News

Brussels has agreed to examine tweaks to the backstop in the coming weeks after “preliminary ideas” were put on the table by Britain. Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator put plans to his European counterparts for a measure to only carry out animal and plant health checks in order to break the bitter Brexit deadlock. David Frost discussed with members of Michel Barnier’s team the need to ensure any regulatory changes to EU animal and plant health rules must be agreed first by key parties and institutions in Northern Ireland.

Referring to the new called sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks, an EU source said: “The UK presented its first sketch of some ideas on all-island SPS and a Stormont role.”

In an attempt to ensure the region isn’t cut off from the rest of Great Britain, the Prime Minister wants to create an all-island food standards zone to help prevent customs checks after Brexit.

An EU diplomat said: “The Commission has entertained the UK putting on the agenda the involvement of Stormont in the development of an SPS-zone arrangement as part of the backstop.”

The source added that while no actual proposals were discussed, handing Northern Ireland politicians a role on the “negotiating team was.

“After this week, the appetite to entertain and elaborate on such proposals in the EU is limited given the reality in London and the limited ambitions of its Government for the future relationship,” they added.

But amid fears from his parliamentary allies in the DUP, Mr Johnson wants to ensure politicians in Northern Ireland have a say on any future changes.

During today’s talks, both sides questioned how Northern Ireland politicians would be involved “before the solution is agreed, after the solution is agreed but before it became applicable, and after the solution becomes applicable”.

Mr Johnson told the Commons this week: “We recognise that for reasons of geography and economics agri-food is increasingly managed on a common basis across the island of Ireland.

“We will be discussing this with the EU shortly.”

EU negotiators have agreed to further the discussions next week amid fears that the chances of a no-deal Brexit are drastically increasing ahead of October 31.

A UK source said: “The UK team presented some preliminary ideas on how any all-island SPS solutions could involve the consent of all parties and institutions with an interest – something the PM referred to earlier this week in Parliament.

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Nonetheless, the European Commission has vowed to keep pushing on as part of an intensified effort to avoid no deal.

One source said: “The Commission debriefed member states this afternoon.

“The discussions were supposed to be on SPS but from what we gather the UK did not put any substantive proposals on the table on how they would envisage handling SPS in practice.”

In a warning that work is still required, the UK’s proposal was branded as “nothing new”.

Despite the apparent breakthrough, EU capitals are still deeply concerned about the prospect of a no deal Brexit.

Finland’s prime minister, Antti Rinne, today said he now thinks it’s “very obvious” that Britain will leave the bloc without an agreement.

He said: “The situation in Britain is quite a mess now.

“We don’t know what is happening there. It seems very obvious that we are not getting Brexit with an agreement, and we have here in Finland and also at the European Union level done work that we can manage that kind of situation.”

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