News | Published September 19 2019

EU to set out September Brexit ultimatum

Finnish prime minister Antti Rinne has said that prime minister Boris Johnson has twelve days to present his Brexit plans to the EU in writing.

The Finns are the current holders of the EU’s rotating presidency and now Rinne and his French colleague Emmanuel Macron have agreed that Johnson must outline his proposals in writing by the end of September or risk putting an end to negotiations.

Having met with Macron on Wednesday, Rinne said: “We both agreed that it is now time for Boris Johnson to produce his own proposals in writing, if they exist.

"If no proposals are received by the end of September, then it's over.”

The UK government has come under fire from the EU for failing to outline its plans in writing thus far, however a source from No. 10 has now said that the government will carry out further negotiations and proposals will be tabled “at the appropriate time”.

Rinne will discuss the proposed twelve-day cut-off with European Council president Donald Tusk and with UK counterpart Boris Johnson, but the ultimatum must then receive the approval of the other EU member states.

Since Johnson became prime minister in July, the government has insisted that progress has been made on talks over a new deal with the bloc.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg has also moved to reassure that Johnson is on track to put a "fundamentally different" proposal before the EU which will deliver Brexit on October 31, but warned at a Telegraph event that the government has to "listen very carefully to what the DUP says".

The DUP's leader, Arlene Foster, wants a new deal that does not impact the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and insisted that she or her party will not condone any deal which includes either a "UK-wide or Northern Ireland specific" backstop when addressing business leaders in Dublin.

Despite this, the prime minister believes a deal can be reached before the October 17 EU summit which will take the whole of the UK out of the single market and customs union. 

Johnson also remains unmoved on his assertion that Brexit must be delivered on October 31 even in the absence of an agreement.

The government says it has put forward “a number of proposals” as alternatives to the Irish backstop, which has proven to be a major bone of contention in the existing withdrawal agreement negotiated by former prime minister Theresa May. The proposals have not been revealed publicly.

DUP leader Foster has hinted that her party is prepared as part of negotiations to "look at Northern Ireland-specific solutions achieved with the support and consent of the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland".

Johnson met with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, who revealed that talks with the UK had been “constructive” but echoed Rinne and Macron's warning that concrete proposals must be forthcoming.

Juncker said: “[Until then] I will not be able to tell you, looking straight in the eye, that any real progress has been achieved”.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
September 19 2019

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