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PM willing to talk after his big plan goes down badly

Border skirmish:
Boris Johnson
defends his idea
for eliminating the
Irish backstop

BORIS JOHNSON’S Brexit plan looked to be doomed last night after the EU said it was not workable, legal or serious.

The prime minister insisted it was a ‘genuine attempt to bridge the chasm’ as he tried to win over MPs in the Commons.

But Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘No Labour MP could support such a reckless deal.’ Brussels had given the plan a polite welcome on Wednesday, praising Mr Johnson for trying to make progress.

But EU leaders lined up yesterday to attack his blueprint for keeping an open border in Ireland without the controversial backstop. The plan fails to match ‘even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop’, claimed the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group.

And its chairman Guy Verhofstadt said: ‘The proposals breach a range of fundamental principles and red lines.’

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said he wanted ‘workable and effective solutions’ that ‘create legal and practical certainty now’.

‘We owe this to peace and stability on the island of Ireland,’ he added.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar accused Mr Johnson of going against the will of UK voters — saying that ‘all the polls’ since the PM entered Downing Street showed people now wanted to Remain.

He insisted the new plan provided no solution, saying he did not understand how the proposed customs checks could be done away from the physical border as has been claimed.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, tweeted: ‘My message to Leo Varadkar: We stand fully behind Ireland. My message to Boris Johnson: We remain open but still unconvinced.’

No.10 had announced on Tuesday that the plan would be Britain’s final offer.

But Mr Johnson yesterday repeatedly refused to rule out making concessions to get a deal over the line by October 31 — when he insists Britain will leave the EU whatever happens.

‘This Government’s objective has always been to leave with a deal,’ he told MPs. ‘To remain a prisoner of existing positions is to become a cause of deadlock rather than breakthrough.’

He hinted he might try to get the plan through the Commons before the EU has given its verdict, to strengthen his hand.

Back seat: Theresa May, who quit as PM after failing to get her Brexit deal through, listens to Mr Johnson in parliament

Mr Johnson wants Northern Ireland to leave the EU customs union alongside the UK — but stay in the single market.

That would mean customs checks on goods being transported across the Irish border, and standards checks on goods shipped across the Irish Sea.

Northern Ireland’s chief constable Simon Byrne warned he would not send officers to police the Irish border or be ‘dragged into another type of policing’.

But the PM insisted the border would stay open because most customs checks would be electronic, while physical ones could be done anywhere on the island.

Mr Varadkar’s deputy Simon Coveney warned that Mr Johnson’s plan gave Northern Ireland’s assembly a chance every four years to veto staying in the single market.

The assembly has not sat since 2017 because of rows but Mr Coveney said the veto could let ‘one party’ — the unionist DUP — force an end to the arrangement.