Brexit report: UK to propose Irish backstop alternative | News | DW | 01.10.2019
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Brexit report: UK to propose Irish backstop alternative

Britain's government is reportedly set to release its plans for customs posts away from the UK border in Ireland. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fending off groping allegations as he prepares his final Brexit push.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask the European Union to rule out further delay of Brexit, The Times newspaper has reported. And the Irish broadcaster RTE has reported that his government plans to propose a number of customs posts on both sides of the border between the Republic of Ireland, which will remain an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which will leave the European Union with the UK as soon as October 31.

Read more: No-deal Brexit would mean Irish border controls, says EU's Juncker

Proponents of an arrangement to keep the border open on Ireland consider it essential in order to honor the 1998 Good Friday Agreement — a fragile peace deal that put an end to a decadeslong conflict in the UK territory of Northern Ireland. Border checkpoints were frequent targets of attacks by republican groups.

Watch video 03:58

Fear of Brexit in Ireland

Brexit supporters say keeping the border open until an agreement is reached would further bind the UK to the EU in an indefinite customs arrangement. And the border has proved a key stumbling block in the negotiations between the EU and successive British governments.

Read more: UK holds #StopTheCoup rallies against Johnson's suspension of Parliament

Johnson would situate his proposed customs checkpoints several kilometers back from the real border, and officials would track the goods registered until they reach the other side, according to RTE. The reported proposal will not likely satisfy critics as it appears to merely move border controls rather than avoid them in a place where no such checks currently take place. Late Monday, Ireland's foreign minister already wrote on Twitter that the idea was a no-go.

Johnson under scrutiny

Johnson, who took over as Conservative leader and prime minister from Theresa May two months ago, has vowed that Britain will leave the European Union on the scheduled date of October 31 with or without a deal governing future relations with the bloc.

His foes in Parliament, who include some longtime members of his own party, have worked to avoid a no-deal exit, which economists say would disrupt trade with the EU and plunge Britain into recession. Legislators have already passed a law that compels the government to seek a delay to Brexit if it can't strike a deal with the European Union by October 19.

Johnson was seeking to energize members of his Conservative Party and the remaining lawmakers whom he commands, but he found himself at the center of a journalist's report that he once grabbed her thigh at a private lunch. Sunday Times columnist Charlotte Edwardes said the incident took place in the 1990s, when she worked at The Spectator, a conservative newsmagazine, where Johnson was an editor at the time.

Read more: Vice President Mike Pence says US will play active role for successful Brexit

Asked if the allegation was true, Johnson said: "No."

"If the prime minister doesn't recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does," Edwardes wrote late Monday on Twitter.

Johnson is also facing scrutiny for reports that a US businesswoman, Jennifer Arcuri, received money and perks from London coffers while he served as mayor of the capital from 2008 to 2016. Johnson has said he acted "with full propriety" and has denied any wrongdoing involving Arcuri, who received grants and places on overseas trade trips for her small tech startup.

Authorities have referred the case to Britain's police watchdog, which will decide whether to investigate Johnson for misconduct in public office.

mkg/cmk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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