Boris Johnson says his Brexit plan will not have checks at Irish border

By Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 1:03 p.m. ET, October 2, 2019
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6:59 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

PM pledges no checks "at or near the border in Northern Ireland"

Boris Johnson said he will present Brussels with what he believed were "constructive and reasonable proposals, which provide a compromise for both sides."

He then went on to make a number of promises related to the Irish border issue.

A reminder: the border has been the main sticking point in the Brexit negotiations. Both sides agree that in line with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, there cannot be any border infrastructure between the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which will remain part of the UK.

He said:

We will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland. We will respect the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
We will go further and protect the existing regulatory arrangements for farmers and other businesses on both sides of the border. And at the same time we will allow the UK -- whole and entire -- to withdraw from the EU, with control of our own trade policy from the start.

However, he did not go into the details of his new proposal. And the EU has said repeatedly that the details matter the most.

6:52 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Johnson launches attack on Parliament

The Prime Minister has gone straight into an attack on Parliament.

Boris Johnson has been furious with Parliament's attempts to frustrate his plan to leave the option of leaving the European Union without a deal at the end of October 31 on the table.

Johnson being Johnson, he tried to include a number of jokes in his speech to demonstrate just how useless -- in his opinion -- Parliament has been:

If Parliament were a laptop, then the screen would be showing the pizza wheel of doom. If Parliament were a reality TV show the whole lot of us would have been voted out of the jungle by now.
But at least we could have watched the speaker being forced to eat a kangaroo testicle.

"And the sad truth is that voters have more say over 'I’m a Celebrity' than they do over this House of Commons," he said referring to a British reality TV show.

Johnson launched straight into an attack on Parliament.
Johnson launched straight into an attack on Parliament. Photo: Frank Augstein

6:42 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Johnson starts by thanking Theresa May

Boris Johnson has started by paying tribute to his predecessor Theresa May.

He says he aims to continue her work in many of the priority areas, including education and healthcare.

He also thanks Ruth Davidson, the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

6:54 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Johnson to say people want "to move on"

Brexit is likely going to be at the center of the Prime Minister's speech on Wednesday.

One line he is bound to repeat several time is his current slogan: "Let's get Brexit Done."

The motto has been printed on posters and displayed around the conference venue.

He is expected to say:

Voters are desperate for us to focus on their other priorities - what people want, what leavers want, what remainers want, what the whole world wants – is to move on. That is why we are coming out of the EU on October 31. Let’s get Brexit done -- we can, we must and we will."
6:29 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Johnson has arrived for his keynote speech

Boris Johnson is in the house.

The Prime Minister has arrived at the Conservative Party Conference venue in Manchester to deliver his keynote speech.

Just before that, he tweeted a cartoon image of himself, alerting his fans to the fact that he "is now on Snapchat."

5:53 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

The queue to see the PM is long. Really, really long

From CNN's James Frater in Manchester

The Prime Minister's speech is seen as the pinnacle of the Conservative Party conference, an unmissable moment everyone wants to attend.

Boris Johnson is not scheduled to speak until around noon, but the queue to get into the auditorium is already pretty long.

5:49 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Johnson's "take it or leave it" offer is problematic

Boris Johnson is expected to reiterate on Wednesday that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on October 31.

"We are coming out of the EU on October 31. Let’s get Brexit done -- we can, we must and we will," he will tell the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, northwest England.

That promise might prove tricky to keep.

To prevent the country from crashing out of the EU without a deal, Parliament has passed a law, known as the Benn Act, that requires the Prime Minister to ask for a delay if no deal is agreed by October 19. 

Boris Johnson would seem to be running out of options -- and time -- on Brexit.
Boris Johnson would seem to be running out of options -- and time -- on Brexit. Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Downing Street officials said Thursday Johnson will "in no circumstances" negotiate a delay at the EU summit.

If the EU rejects his new deal, which the government says is the final offer, Johnson risks being cornered -- unless he can find a loophole that would still allow him to leave the EU without a deal.

One option floated by some MPs is to simply force the EU to reject the request for a delay. Another way might be for the government to pass a new law that would overrule the Benn Act -- but without a parliamentary majority, that would seem improbable.

5:29 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

Boris Johnson's cup has a photo of Boris Johnson on it

Downing Street has released a photo of Boris Johnson preparing for his conference speech.

Eagle eyes will spot the mug strategically placed in front of Johnson. It features a photo of the Prime Minister. We are not judging, a coffee mug is a highly personal choice.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares his speech for the Conservative Party conference.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares his speech for the Conservative Party conference. Photo: Stefan Rousseau - Pool/Getty Images

The picture comes just a few hours after another Johnson mug incident.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister was captured being handed a disposable cup (a big PR no-no), only for an aide to promptly snatch it away from him.

"No disposable cups!" the aide said after confiscating the beverage.

5:27 a.m. ET, October 2, 2019

What is this new offer?

The new Brexit proposal has been leaked to the Daily Telegraph, perhaps unsurprisingly given Boris Johnson's past employment by the paper.

According to the newspaper, the new proposal would replace the existing Irish backstop, the part of the agreement meant to prevent a return of hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, with an alternative, time-limited plan.

The newspaper said the Prime Minister envisions a "two borders for four years" plan that would "leave Northern Ireland in a special relationship with Europe until 2025."

However, Irish officials have already said that if the leaked proposals are true, they are problematic.

The Irish border remains a controversial point in the negotiations.
The Irish border remains a controversial point in the negotiations. Photo: PAUL FAITH/AFP

Ireland's Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee, told Ireland's RTE broadcaster the proposal wouldn't be in line with the commitments made under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Ireland following decades of violent conflict. 

Under that agreement, no physical border infrastructure can be placed at the border.

"It is talking about a time limit, which is not acceptable, it is still talking about the need and requirement for customs checks," McEntee said.