prize mug

Rebecca Hendin, Groan, Sep 18 2019

EU fears Brexit reality has dawned too late for Boris Johnson
Mehreen Khan, FT, Sep 18 2019

STRASBOURG – Boris Johnson’s nightmare in Luxembourg was more than just a public embarrassment delivered at the hands of the Grand Duchy’s Xavier Bettel. EU boxtops described a chastening encounter over lunch between Johnson, Barnier and Juncker, at which the prime minister was told by his EU counterparts in no uncertain terms that the UK’s plan to replace the backstop by allowing NI to stick to common EU rules on food and livestock (known as SPS) was not enough to prevent customs checks on the vast majority of goods that cross the Irish border. At that point, Johnson turned to his chief negotiator David Frost and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay and said:

So you’re telling me the SPS plan doesn’t solve the customs problem?

Johnson was told by his counterparts that the UK’s proposals on allowing NI to stick to common EU rules on food and livestock was not a sufficient replacement for the Irish backstop, as it would still require customs checks on other types of goods. An EU boxtop said:

It was clear that Boris was on a learning curve.

Another described Johnson as “slumping” into his seat over the course of lunch as the reality of the tight negotiating schedule dawned on him, and remarked:

He wasn’t used to hearing it.

Mr Juncker told his college of commissioners in Strasbourg on Tuesday:

At last, Boris Johnson understood the meaning of the single market.

A Number 10 official rejected descriptions of the lunch as “nonsense.”

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