Published On: Tue, Aug 20th, 2019

EU ordered to brand Johnson Brexit letter ‘misleading and incorrect’ | UK | News

In a secret memo circulated to Brussels diplomats, they have been told to attack the Prime Minister’s claims that the controversial Northern Ireland backstop is “anti-democratic”. In a letter to Donald Tusk, the European Council’s president, Mr Johnson insisted the backstop must be scrapped or the UK will leave the bloc without a deal. He insisted that he was prepared to sign up to a legal commitment to prevent a hard border and ensure new “alternative arrangements” can be ready before the end of the transition period.

To replace the backstop, Mr Johnson called for “flexible and creative solutions to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland”.

He added: “I propose that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship.

“I also recognise that there will need to be a degree of confidence about what would happen if these arrangements were not all fully in place at the end of that period.

“We are ready to look constructively and flexibly at what commitments might help, consistent of course with the principles set out in this letter.”

But diplomats will now hit out at the Prime Minister, declaring his letter “does not provide any such guarantees” in avoiding a hard border.

“His letter recognises that there is no guarantee that such arrangements will be in place by the end of the transitional period,” the diplomatic note, seen by this website, reads.

The so-called “lines to take” document instructs EU diplomats and officials how to respond to questions surrounding Mr Johnson’s demand to scrap the backstop.

They are told that the “EU contests a number of points in the letter”, including that the measure doesn’t respect the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland peace process.

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The note reads: “The withdrawal agreement fully respects the Good Friday Agreement, the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom.”

It adds: “Both sides began these negotiations with a commitment to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. The backstop is the only means identified so far by both parties to honour this commitment.”

Brussels also disputes Mr Johnson’s claim that “the people of Northern Ireland have no influence over the legislation that applies to them – that is why the backstop is anti-democratic”.

EU capitals have been ordered to respond: “It is incorrect to state that the people of Northern Ireland have no influence over the legislation that would apply to them.

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“There are specific governance arrangements contained in the Protocol, which foresee ways for the UK and people of Northern Ireland to express their views and to influence the shaping of the decisions applicable in Northern Ireland.”

The memo adds: “The letter’s suggestion that two separate legal, political, economic and monetary jurisdictions already exist on the island and can be managed with an open border is misleading.

“EU law provides the common framework needed to enable frictionless trade between member states today. Without this common framework, checks and controls become necessary to protect consumers’ health, the integrity of the single market and Ireland’s place in it.”

Despite the negative approach shown by Brussels, negotiators stand ready to discuss any future proposals by Mr Johnson.

“The Commission stands ready to work constructively within our mandate,” the document reads.

“The Commission will analyse any operational United Kingdom ideas that are compatible with the existing withdrawal agreement.

“We are, of course, ready to rework the political declaration in line with the European Council guidelines.”

In the bloc’s first public response to the Prime Minister’s letter, Mr Tusk accused him of wanting to “re-establish” a hard border on Ireland.

The European Council chief said: “The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found.

“Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support reestablishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.”

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