MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday made a Brexit offer to the European Union but said that if Brussels does not engage then Britain would leave on Oct. 31 without a deal.
In his closing speech to his Conservatives’ annual conference, Johnson stuck to his hard line on Brexit, giving the party faithful some of the first details of what he described as his “fair and reasonable compromise” to the EU.
In a strategy that will define the future of Brexit, the EU and his premiership, Johnson is betting he can get enough concessions from Brussels to persuade Brexit supporters in the British parliament to ratify any deal.
“We are coming out of the EU on October 31, come what may,” Johnson told party members, after expressing “love” for Europe in a speech which focused mostly on domestic issues such as health, the economy and crime.
“We are tabling what I believe are constructive and reasonable proposals which provide a compromise for both sides,” Johnson said. “Let us be in no doubt that the alternative is no deal.”
With less than a month left until Britain is due to leave the EU, the future of Brexit, its most significant geopolitical move since World War Two, is uncertain. It could leave with a deal or without one – or not leave at all.
The issue has thrown British politics into turmoil and deeply divided the country, which voted by 52% against 48% to leave the EU in a referendum in 2016.
Giving little detail on his proposals, he said there would be no checks at or near the Irish border. He said London would respect the 1998 peace agreement that ended three decades of conflict in the province. He did not explain how.
“By a process of renewable democratic consent by the executive and assembly of Northern Ireland,” Johnson said. “We will go further and protect the existing regulatory arrangements for farmers and other businesses on both sides of the border.”
He said the United Kingdom “whole and entire” would withdraw from the EU, with London keeping control of its own trade policy from the start. He said technology could offer a solution but gave no specifics.
However, EU diplomats and officials in Brussels, reacting to British media reports on what the proposal contained, called it “fundamentally flawed” and expressed doubt it would be accepted.
Additional reporting by John Chalmers and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Angus MacSwan