Boris Johnson’s new proposal for leaving the EU has been described as a “Trump-deal Brexit” which would risk standards and harm the economy.
Jeremy Corbyn made the claim as the prime minister formally put his plan to MPs yesterday, telling the Commons he had made a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” in order to get a fresh Brexit deal with the EU.
But SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the chief aim of the plan, to replace the controversial Irish backstop insurance policy with a new regime of checks, was “unworkable” and “undeliverable”.
The condemnation in the Commons came as Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said his country “cannot possibly” support Mr Johnson’s proposal.
“It is is not consistent with the Good Friday Agreement, it is not something we could possibly support as part of any final deal,” Mr Coveney told the Irish parliament.
Mr Johnson remained bullish though, telling MPs that his proposal offered a “very good basis for a deal”.
The backstop, which was agreed between Theresa May’s government and the EU, is an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping the UK in a customs union.
The prime minister’s new proposal would involve Northern Ireland leaving the EU’s customs union alongside the rest of the UK at the start of 2021 but the region would, with the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly, continue to abide by EU legislation relating to agricultural products.
Mr Johnson sees this as an effective balance, keeping the flow of goods relatively free across Ireland while respecting EU rules and keeping the Northern Ireland tied to the UK.
The UK Government does admit, however, that it would mean some physical customs checks on goods traded between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Mr Blackford said the proposals were “unacceptable, unworkable and undeliverable”.
He said: “It is a plan designed to fail, but of course the prime minister knows that. This take-it-or-leave-it threat is yet another push towards a catastrophic no-deal Brexit.
“The SNP will do everything possible to secure an extension and to stop a no-deal Brexit, so I say to the Prime Minister: be warned, secure an extension or resign. If not the SNP stand ready to bring this government down.”
Mr Johnson replied: “The best way, if he wishes to avoid a no-deal outcome, would be to support a deal.”
The new proposal would allow the UK “to take back control of our trade policy and our regulations”, he said, arguing that he had made a considerable compromise, and that it was now up to the EU to do the same.
He said: “If our European neighbours choose not to show a corresponding willingness to reach a deal then we shall have to leave on 31 October without an agreement and we are ready to do so.”
Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid, speaking to the Press and Journal after the exchanges, said the deal offered a “good basis for what can be agreed with the EU”.
He added: “Ian Blackford is talking nonsense when he claims to talk for the people of Scotland. More Scots voted leave in 2016 than voted SNP in the 2017 general election.
“In that same general election, 56% of Scottish voters voted for parties – at least at the time, in the case of Labour – committed to delivering on the Brexit result.”