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UK Politics: EU to pass verdict on Johnson's Brexit plan 'at end of week'

Johnson says Britain will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal
Johnson has pledged to 'get Brexit done' this month
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Boris Johnson has been given until the end of the week to convince EU leaders that his proposed deal is the way to break the Brexit deadlock. Tradefair brings you the latest from UK politics...

"We have set out very serious proposals, including compromise on our side, and we now need to see creativity and flexibility on the EU side,"

- Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay

Boris Johnson last week put forward his long-awaited plan to break the Brexit deadlock and fulfil his promise to take Britain out of the European Union by October 31.

The prime minister delivered a new set of proposals to the EU that included measures to replace the Irish backstop - one of the most controversial parts of the previous withdrawal agreement negotiated by former PM Theresa May. The aim of the backstop is to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, but critics argue it will leave the UK too closely tied to the EU after Brexit.

Johnson described his new deal as a "genuine attempt to bridge the chasm" and enable an orderly Brexit this month. However, key EU leaders expressed doubts about whether the plan goes far enough to address their biggest concerns, such as the need to avoid customs checks on the Irish border.

The UK prime minister has now been told he has until the end of this week to engage in further negotiations and revise his plans to get his EU counterparts onboard.

Respecting EU principles

During a phone call with French president Emmanuel Macron over the weekend, Johnson was reportedly told that any further talks on the latest deal should be carried out with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, rather than with individual leaders.

He was also reminded of the limited time available to reach an agreement that satisfies all parties before the summit of European leaders due to take place on October 17 and 18.

A French government official said: "Boris Johnson presented his latest proposals. The president told him that the negotiations should continue swiftly with Michel Barnier's team in [the] coming days, in order to evaluate at the end of the week whether a deal is possible that respects European Union principles."

As far as replacing the backstop is concerned, Johnson's proposal is to have Northern Ireland stay in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union, which would result in new customs checks.

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar welcomed last week's progress, but suggested the measures put forward by the UK "did not fully meet the agreed objectives of the backstop".

Outgoing European Council president Donald Tusk tweeted the EU was "open but still unconvinced" by the plan, adding that the rest of the bloc would "stand fully behind Ireland".

'Creativity and flexibility'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed the latest proposals from Johnson's government, arguing they would "damage the whole UK economy, the Northern Irish economy especially and would undermine the Good Friday agreement".

The Scottish National Party was also sceptical, with the party's Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, saying the PM will "never have the consent of Scotland" for his proposed deal.

However, Johnson has argued that MPs from Labour, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party and "every wing of the Conservative Party" have said the agreement "looks like one they can get behind".

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that ministers were considering putting the new plans to a vote in parliament, in order to gauge levels of cross-party support before this month's EU summit.

He added: "We have set out very serious proposals, including compromise on our side, and we now need to see creativity and flexibility on the EU side in order to reach that deal."

It appears businesses will have to wait a little longer to get any firm answers about how Brexit is likely to unfold at the end of this month.

The ongoing uncertainty was among the factors that contributed to a disastrous few days for the FTSE 100 last week. The index experienced its worst week in nearly a year, dropping by up to 5%, and saw further slight losses on Monday morning (October 7).

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