Britain will table new proposals on a Brexit deal “very soon”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday, while distancing himself from a leaked plan about the Irish border.
“We are going to make a very good offer. We will be tabling it formally very soon,” Johnson told BBC television from Manchester, where his Conservative party’s conference is underway.
Versions of his long-awaited proposal reported in UK and Irish media suggest he wants checks on goods conducted away from the Irish border, while food and agricultural products are waved through.
The reported plan is designed to keep the border between EU member Ireland and Britain’s Northern Ireland free-flowing after Brexit, which is now scheduled for October 31.
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney called the reported plan a “non-starter”.
“Time the EU had a serious proposal from the UK Govt if a #Brexit deal is to be achievable in October,” Coveney tweeted, saying Northern Ireland and his own country “deserves better!”
Johnson told BBC radio the media reports of his proposals were “not quite right”.
He said so-called customs clearance centres for goods were not part of his solution, which UK media said would be presented to Brussels by the weekend.
But he confirmed that Britain has already proposed a way to abolish checks on cattle and some food crossing the border by allowing EU rules in Northern Ireland, as in Ireland.
It suggested “a single territory for agriculture, for sanitary and phytosanitary agrifooods, and that is a big concession by the UK government”, he said.
“It covers a great deal of trade north south of the border, the decisions on sanitary and phytosanitary rules would still be taken in Brussels with no say by the UK.”
Johnson also reaffirmed his commitment to ensure Brexit without further delay.
Britain’s departure date has already been postponed twice from the original end of March deadline.
Johnson also again denied an allegation that he squeezed a young female journalist’s thigh 20 years ago — and suggested negative stories about him were driven by anti-Brexit sentiment.
“This is a very difficult time for the country in the sense that Brexit is about to be done and a lot of people don’t want Brexit to be done,” he said.
Britain struck a Brexit deal with the European Union last year, under former premier Theresa May, but it was rejected three times by the British parliament.
The most contentious issue was a so-called backstop plan, which could keep Britain in a customs union with the EU indefinitely to avoid checks on the Irish border.