Blow for Boris Johnson as Michel Barnier says EU ‘cannot accept’ UK Brexit proposals
Boris Johnson has been dealt a fresh blow after Michel Barnier said the EU could not accept his latest proposals for breaking the Brexit deadlock.
In a scathing assessment, the EU’s chief negotiator said the Prime Minister’s attempts to replace the Irish backstop “hasn’t been properly developed” and was therefore unacceptable.
“The proposal of the British Government as things stand is not something we can accept,” he said while addressing MEPs at the European Parliament.
“It replaces an operational, practical, legal solution by one that is simply a temporary solution.”
Mr Barnier added: “To put things very frankly, though, and to try and be objective, at this particular point, we are not really in a position where we are able to find an agreement."
His comments come ahead of make-or-break talks between Mr Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
The Prime Minister submitted his Brexit proposals a week ago following the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Under the plans, an "all-island regulatory zone" would be created for agri-foods and manufactured goods, effectively introducing extra checks in the Irish Sea.
In addition, customs checks would be introduced between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but away from the border between the two countries.
Mr Barnier added: “Brexit is something that is long term, it creates specific, serious problems, first and foremost in Ireland. What we need is operational, legally binding solutions, today not tomorrow."
He also laid out “three serious concerns” with the PM’s plans, including that they “will largely be based on exemptions and derogations on technology that has yet to be developed”.
Mr Barnier said that while “a deal is still possible” it would be “very difficult” to reach by the 31 October deadline.
Meanwhile, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU and UK "remained in discussion" on achieving a deal.
But he added: "We are not accepting this blame game which started in London. We are not to be blamed."
Their comments came after European Parliament president David Sissoli said "no progress" had been made when he held talks with Mr Johnson in Downing Street.