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EU unconvinced by Brexit proposal

BRUSSELS: The European Union (EU) is “unconvinced” by Britain’s new Brexit proposals, but has not immediately dismissed them, with officials and diplomats saying Thursday there were positive points alongside the many problematic ones.

The questions is: are they the basis for negotiations? British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he hopes so, as he moves to execute his vow to take his country out of the EU on October 31, deal or no deal.

His government submitted legal proposals on Wednesday to the EU, which says it is carefully looking them over.

EU Council President Donald Tusk, who will head a make-or-break October 17 to 18 EU summit dominated by Brexit, tweeted a message to Johnson: “We remain open but still unconvinced.”

European diplomats were equally sceptical. But they saw the potential for talks — if they could be coralled into the two weeks before the summit.

“The British government itself speaks of a negotiable text, and that is a positive thing,” said one.

But the diplomat added: “The EU is not responsible for the fact that the proposal arrived yesterday (Wednesday)…. If it is not achieved before the European Council [summit], it is not our fault.”

The focus of attention was UK proposals for Northern Ireland, the British territory whose hard-won Good Friday peace deal is threatened by a no-deal Brexit, and which shares a border with EU member Ireland.

Johnson wants to have Northern Ireland keep EU-similar standards for all goods to facilitate trade with Ireland, but for a complicated system reliant on technology to mostly avoid checks along the border.

Several diplomats said they viewed the continuation of EU-type standards positively.

But they balked at other aspects of the proposals for Northern Ireland — particularly how the customs technology could work, and giving the Northern Ireland assembly the periodic right to unilaterally veto the standards alignment. AFP

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