Boris Johnson has denied a leaked plan to break the Brexit deadlock rubbished by Ireland is the “actual” version he will propose soon to the EU.
The prime minister claimed the government “don’t want” to set up new customs check posts 5-10 miles away from the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.
He vowed to “protect the integrity of the UK” and honour the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the island with his blueprint to be revealed to the EU after this week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
The contentious idea came from discussion papers submitted to Brussels negotiators, which were leaked to the Irish broadcaster RTE.
It relates to the prime minister’s promise to renegotiate Britain’s current withdrawal agreement and demanded the abolition of the Irish border backstop arrangement.
The backstop is designed as an insurance mechanism to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland regardless of the future EU/UK trade relationship.
RTE reported on Monday night that Mr Johnson’s plan to replace the backstop could include “customs clearance sites” on both sides of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
These could be perhaps five to ten miles back, the broadcaster added.
But Mr Johnson insisted we were still in the “early days” of negotiating the abolition of the backstop.
“We don’t want to see new border posts just away from the border,” he said on Tuesday.
“There may be some confusion about that.”
He added the reported plans “don’t actually relate to what we are going to table”.
Earlier, Ireland rubbished the plan reported by RTE, foreign minister Simon Coveney calling it a “non-starter”.
“Time the EU had a serious proposal from the UK Govt if a #Brexit deal is to be achievable in October. NI and IRE deserves better!” he tweeted.
And an Irish government spokesperson said they had yet to see “any credible alternatives” to the current backstop.
They said: “The EU taskforce has indicated that any non-papers it has received from the UK to date fall well short of the agreed aims and objectives of the backstop.
“The UK’s non-papers were given to the taskforce on the strict understanding they would not be shared with anyone. The taskforce has said it has received no credible proposals from the British.
“Ireland’s priorities are protecting the Good Friday Agreement, avoiding a hard border and protecting the all island economy, and protecting the EU single market and its benefits for Irish businesses and consumers.
“We have yet to see any credible alternatives to the backstop.”
Non-papers are informal documents, usually used to test the reaction of other parties to possible solutions, without necessarily committing the proposer.