War of words erupts as government insists it will not be rushed into revealing backstop alternative

Posted On: 
19th September 2019

Ministers have sparked a fresh war of words with the EU by insisting they will not be rushed into revealing their plans for replacing the Irish backstop.

The Government has insisted it will not be rushed by the EU into revealing its hand.
PA Images

A spokesperson for the Government said they would not be forced to show their hand by "an articificial deadline" put forward by Brussels.

The slapdown came after Antti Rinne, the prime minister of Finland, said the UK only had 11 days to bring forward its proposals for maintaining an open border in Ireland after Brexit or else the chances of agreeing a new deal were "over".

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Speaking after holding talks with French president Emmanuel Macron, he said: "We need to know what the UK is proposing. The UK should make its possible own proposals very soon if they would like them to be discussed.

"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 spokesperson said they had submitted "non-papers" to the EU setting out ideas for replacing the backstop.

However, sources also insisted that they did not necessarily represent the Government's actual position.

The spokesperson said: "We have been having detailed discussions with the Commission’s Taskforce 50 in recent weeks. We have now shared in written form a series of confidential technical non-papers which reflect the ideas the UK has been putting forward.

"We will table formal written solutions when we are ready, not according to an artificial deadline, and when the EU is clear that it will engage constructively on them as a replacement for the backstop."

The row comes after Mr Johnson was told to stop “pretending to negotiate” by Michel Barnier, the EU's top Brexit negotiator.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettel said it was time for the Prime Minister to “stop speaking, but act” following talks earlier this week.

In response the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay claimed Mr Johnson had shown he was willing to be "creative and flexible", and suggested it was now the EU’s turn to shift its stance.

Speaking in Spain, the Cabinet minister said: "A rigid approach now at this point is no way to progress a deal and the responsibility sits with both sides to find a solution."

He added: "We are committed to carving out a landing zone and we stand ready to share relevant texts. But it must be in the spirit of negotiation with flexibility and with a negotiating partner that itself is willing to compromise."