Will Johnson find a way out of the Brexit impasse?

Less than four weeks before the Brexit deadline expires, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has presented proposals for avoiding no deal which he claims would render the controversial backstop unnecessary. Under his plan Northern Ireland would continue to adhere to certain EU regulations and unavoidable customs checks on the Irish border would be carried out with the help of technological solutions. The press discusses the chances of a compromise.

Open/close all quotes
Der Standard (AT) /

Now things are starting to happen

Now, unlike in the summer, a compromise on the backstop could be possible, Der Standard believes:

“In principle nothing has changed, but in Britain's domestic politics everything has. May is history. Her successor Boris Johnson has made the chaos even worse. He is believed capable of implementing Brexit without a treaty, which would do everyone maximum harm. Johnson has not yet been able to come up with a coherent concept for removing the hurdle of the backstop, the guarantee for open borders in Ireland. But the EU 27 are no longer saying the issue is 'non-negotiable'. There is still a lot of work to be done here, they say. It almost sounds like we'll see a last-minute compromise rather than extension number four.”

The Times (GB) /

Northern Ireland could turn its back on the UK

Johnson's plan, which envisages border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland, could lead to Irish reunification, The Times warns:

“Even if Brussels did relent, it will remain problematic how to gain the consent of Northern Ireland for such a shift. Support for the reunification of Ireland is rising, even among unionists. One recent poll puts support for a united Ireland at 51 per cent. Under the Good Friday agreement the government must call a referendum when it appears likely that there is a majority in favour of unification. ... If Mr Johnson proceeds without broad Northern Irish consent, he might inadvertently bring that day forward.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Johnson doesn't care about the nation

Boris Johnson's most recent proposals for Brexit are just a ruse, Dagens Nyheter says:

“Johnson doesn't seem to care about the nation's interests. His main goal is new elections and he wants to win them with populist tirades against parliament, the establishment and the EU bureaucrats who are sabotaging the Brexit the nation so badly wants. A second referendum on EU membership would entail many problems, but one can hardly imagine worse chaos than the current situation. The British should at least have the opportunity to have their say again now that they have a better idea of the consequences of a Brexit.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Compromise within reach

Johnson's proposal contains concessions that should be taken seriously, The Irish Times argues:

“If it is a take it or leave it offer, as was widely touted by Downing Street sources in advance, it will almost certainly be rejected by the EU negotiating team and the Irish Government. If, on the other hand, it is a starting point for detailed negotiations there is an outside chance it could still form the basis for a deal. ... Despite the initial negative noises emanating from Dublin and Brussels it is clear that Johnson and the Democratic Unionist Party have made a significant move by accepting that Northern Ireland should remain part of the EU single market for at least four years with a border running down the Irish Sea.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Nothing but pipe dreams

Helsingin Sanomat can't make out any realistic solutions in Johnson's offer:

“In practice the model Johnson has now proposed would be chaotic and require a change to EU customs regulations. What's more, controls would also be necessary on the island of Ireland. Johnson is simply brushing that problem aside by saying it could be resolved with new technological controls. Such 'technlogical controls' don't exist, and aren't even in planning even though just three weeks remain before Brexit goes into effect. The proposal's practical solutions are just pipe dreams: in Johnson's mind the problems can be solved given sufficient willpower. The government's attitude is strange: as if Britain had the upper hand in the exit negotiations and was now offering generous concessions to the EU.”

Der Bund (CH) /

EU should stick to its guns

Boris Johnson's proposals for the future of Northern Ireland are not real alternatives, Der Bund concludes, and advises the EU to remain firm:

“Many of the measures are not technically feasible, remain vague or fail to fulfil key criteria that would make them eligible for the European partners. It is not clear how this can preserve the Good Friday Agreement and the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. And the EU's single market would have an unsupervised gateway between its member the Republic of Ireland and British Northern Ireland. There is no sign of a meeting point here. Boris Johnson doesn't have a majority in favour of a deal at home anyway, and he has gambled away the little trust his European partners had in him. And why should we do the British Trump imitator a favour anyway?”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Stubbornness won't help anyone

The EU should at least take a good look at the proposal, economist David Cayla advises in Le Figaro:

“The Europeans are falling into their own trap: in Theresa May's day they repeated that no other deal was possible, and now they have to make concessions if they want to avoid no deal at all. They could have made smaller concessions when the project failed for the first time in parliament. This time round they shouldn't simply reject the proposal out of hand. ... The interesting thing about Johnson's proposal is that it contains new ideas that could allow the two parties to agree on a project that accounts for the needs of both sides.”