EU's Michel Barnier dismisses Boris Johnson's Irish backstop plan as 'unacceptable'

Posted On: 
23rd September 2019

The EU’s chief negotiator has called Boris Johnson’s proposals to replace the Irish backstop “unacceptable”, as the Brexit deadlock continues.

Michel Barnier said it was "unacceptable" after meeting with German foreign minister Heiko Maas

Michel Barnier admitted it was “difficult” to see how a legally viable solution could be found over the controversial border arrangement.

The comments come after the UK Government shared a series of technical ‘non-papers’ with Brussels setting out ideas for an alternative to the backstop last week.

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Speaking after a meeting with German foreign minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, Mr Barnier said: "The new government of the UK wants us to get rid of this solution, the so-called backstop and wants…a regulatory and customs land border on the island of Ireland.

“The UK government also wants the EU to change the way the internal market and border control operates after Brexit.

“As I am sure you will understand, this is unacceptable. My mandate is clear from the 27 leaders, the EU and the European parliament: safeguarding peace and stability in Ireland and protecting the integrity of the single market."

He went on: "Let me therefore put it clearly that based on current UK thinking, it is difficult to see how we arrive at a legally operable solution that fulfils all the objectives of the backstop."

Mr Maas also cast doubt over the UK’s proposals being “legal or viable” solutions.

But speaking en route to New York on Monday, the Prime Minister said he was "cautiously optimistic" he could persuade EU leaders to accept his Irish border plans. 

He is expected to meet EU Council President Donald Tusk, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar while visiting the US for the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr Johnson hopes to strike a deal with the bloc ahead of the EU Council meeting on 17 October, when a law passed by MPs could force him to request an extension to the Hallowe'en Brexit deadline if an agreement has not been reached.