Central to plan is removal of so-called "backstop" to prevent return of customs posts between EU member Ireland and British province of Northern Ireland once UK ends its 46-year involvement in European economic bloc.

A Brexit slogan is displayed at the venue of the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, Britain, on October 2, 2019.
A Brexit slogan is displayed at the venue of the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, Britain, on October 2, 2019. (Reuters)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday proposed a new Brexit plan aimed at removing the need for customs checks at the Irish border, calling the EU-backed approach a "bridge to nowhere."

Johnson's plan, published by the UK government, says the revised agreement "should make a firm commitment to avoiding customs checks, regulatory checks, or related physical infrastructure at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland."

In an accompanying letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Johnson said his deal "removes the so-called backstop," an EU-backed plan that ensures the Irish border stays open by keeping Britain temporarily aligned to EU customs rules.

TRT World's Simon McGregor-Wood reports.

The UK Parliament rejected the old Brexit agreement three times because of the backstop provision.

"The proposed 'backstop' is a bridge to nowhere, and a new way forward must be found," Johnson's letter to Juncker said.

But Juncker warned Johnson that there are "problematic points" in the new proposed Brexit withdrawal deal, in a statement.

Juncker highlighted concerns about London's proposed customs regime aimed at avoiding checks on the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

But he recognised "positive advances" in the British offer during a phone call with Johnson, telling him that EU negotiators would now "examine the legal text objectively."

"He also stressed that we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU's Single Market and Ireland's place in it," the statement said.

Open frontier with Ireland

Johnson said his plan is built on preserving the Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland in which thousands died.

That deal was based on the premise of an open frontier with Ireland — a principle that Johnson's plan said Britain "is absolutely committed to upholding."

In place of customs checks at the border, which would have entered into force once a Brexit transition period expires in 2021, the proposal says that "goods movements between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be notified using a declaration."

Physical checks would be conducted at traders' premises or specific, designation locations but not at EU member Ireland's border with British Northern Ireland.

Ireland has strongly opposed the reintroduction of border customs checks, calling them a dangerous approach.

In place of customs checks, the UK plan would create "an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland" that covers "all goods" — not just agriculture and food products mentioned in earlier reported drafts of the plan.

This regulatory zone, which would see Northern Ireland temporarily follow EU standards and regulations, would be "dependent on the consent of those who live under it, through the Northern Ireland institutions," the plan says.

As a result, agricultural products entering Northern Ireland from mainland Britain would undergo inspections "as required by EU law."

No-deal Brexit 

Johnson had earlier told members of his ruling Conservative Party that Britain was prepared to leave the EU without a deal, despite fears it could herald an economic slump.

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, whose lawmakers support Johnson's minority government in Britain's parliament, broadly welcomed the plan.

"This offer provides a basis for the EU to continue in a serious and sustained engagement with the UK Government without risk to the internal market of the United Kingdom," it said.

The Confederation of British Industry has said a no-deal Brexit would be "a historic failure of statecraft" which would dog growth and trade "for years to come."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies