What is Boris Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal?

Very little actually distinguishes Johnson’s proposal from that of his predecessor, former Prime Minister Theresa May.

“Most of the exit agreement [negotiated by May] is exactly the same to what Boris Johnson is proposing,” said Frances Burwell, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council whose research covers the European Union. “The same financial settlement … same treatment of EU citizens in the U.K. and U.K. citizens in the EU.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted in response to the announcement that “Johnson’s negotiated a worse deal than Theresa May” and that it “should be rejected.”

The only substantial difference is the economic status of Northern Ireland post-Brexit and, specifically, how to manage the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

The Irish border has been the main sticking point throughout these negotiations.

The Irish border has been the main sticking point throughout these negotiations.

 The EU and the Irish government want to ensure that the border remains open and unobstructed, in line with the 1998 Good Friday peace settlement, which largely brought an end to the 30-year sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. On the other side, the British government wants to secure the U.K.’s status as a distinct economic unit—which would, in theory, require some type of border after Brexit, given that Northern Ireland is still part of the U.K. but shares an island with the Republic of Ireland.

As post-Brexit customs and tariffs come into effect between the U.K. and the EU, there would need to be some method of checking goods entering EU member Ireland—and if there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the republic, then the checks would have to take place before goods from outside the EU arrived on the island.

The position of Johnson’s current Conservative-led U.K. government has been complicated by its relationship with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose 10 votes in the House of Commons it has in recent years relied on to pass legislation. The DUP is adamantly opposed to any deal that appears to treat Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.


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