Boris Johnson. Picture: REUTERS/SIMON DAWSON
Boris Johnson. Picture: REUTERS/SIMON DAWSON

Manchester — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his plan for a new Brexit agreement and warned the EU to compromise or watch the UK walk away from talks and leave the bloc without a deal.

The UK prime minister declared that Britain is “ready” to break away from the EU without an agreement in four weeks’ time, if officials in Brussels do not back down.

In his first keynote speech as prime minister at his Conservative Party’s conference, Johnson said his team is putting forward details of his “constructive and reasonable” blueprint in Brussels on Wednesday.

“I hope very much that our friends understand that and compromise in their turn,” Johnson told his audience in Manchester, England, on Wednesday. “Because if we fail to get an agreement because of what is essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks, when that technology is improving the whole time, then let us be in no doubt that the alternative is no deal.

“That is not an outcome we want. It is not an outcome we seek at all. But let me tell you this conference: it is an outcome for which we are ready.”

The UK is due to exit the EU on October 31 and Johnson says he will never agree to delaying Brexit beyond that date, even if it means leaving without an agreement, risking disruption at ports, to business supply chains, and to the security of food, fuel and water supplies.

In a Sun newspaper interview, Johnson set the bloc’s negotiators an October 11 deadline for agreeing a headline deal with Britain.

In his speech, Johnson gave few details of his blueprint for resolving the toxic question of how to avoid the need for checkpoints to inspect goods crossing the Irish border, which has held up progress in the negotiations for the past year.

He said his plan is a “compromise”. It involves a common set of rules for agriculture across the island of Ireland, no customs checks on goods crossing the Irish border “at or near” that frontier, and a “renewable” process in which the Northern Ireland elected assembly gives its consent to the system in operation.

There are few signs that European leaders are willing to accept Johnson’s proposals. Ireland, a key voice on the EU side, has already rejected elements of the plan.

Earlier on Wednesday, before the prime minister’s speech, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the proposals did not appear encouraging. “Essentially, if he’s proposing customs checks on the island of Ireland then I don’t think that’s going to be the basis of an agreement,” he told Sky News.

Bloomberg