BORIS Johnson pleaded with EU chiefs to shift on Brexit after it emerged he made a big-money offer to Ireland to seal an 11th hour deal.
Laying out his new Brexit compromise offer yesterday to MPs, the PM insisted his plan was a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm”.
But his “two borders” blueprint for Northern Ireland was met with hostility across Europe.
EU Council president Donald Tusk earlier told Mr Johnson that Brussels “remains open, but still unconvinced” and challenged him to improve his offer.
And Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the plan “falls short in a number of aspects” before staggeringly suggesting the British people want a second referendum.
He added: “All the polls since Prime Minister Johnson became prime minister suggest that’s what the British people actually want, but their political system isn’t able to give them that choice.”
Also yesterday, as the Brexit clocked ticked down:
- Fears mounted in No10 that the EU will try to force the PM to abandon Northern Ireland and accept its proposal for a province-only backstop.
- A row exploded between Irish politicians and Unionists as DUP boss Arlene Foster branded Dublin’s deputy PM “foolish in the extreme”.
- Splits emerged among EU member states as some backed Ireland’s hardline but others blamed Dublin for the deadlock.
Those inside No10 are desperate for the EU to begin intensive talks through the weekend to strike a deal by the end of next week.
In his determination to get it done, The Sun can reveal the PM secretly offered to write Ireland a massive cheque to compensate businesses for any lost revenue caused by a cross-border customs system.
But his advances were rejected with a source telling The Sun: “We tried money. We were told that’s not the route to go down with the Irish as it wouldn’t land very well.”
Under Mr Johnson’s new plan, Northern Ireland would follow EU rules on goods, food and livestock but remain part of the UK’s customs regime — with Belfast getting a veto on the set-up every four years.
Some senior EU figures are secretly pressing Ireland to accept Mr Johnson’s money offer as they are growing tired of how Irish politics is log-jamming Brexit.
One senior Eastern European diplomat said: “It is time this all comes to a conclusion. Dublin have a lot of leverage now, they should use it and name their price.”
‘DUBLIN HAVE LEVERAGE’
The PM has already unlocked the DUP’s support for his plan with the help of a promise to pour billions more investment into the province.
But under the EU’s proposal from two years ago to solve the dilemma of keeping the Irish border open, Northern Ireland would remain in the customs union and single market until another solution emerges.
That would put up a customs border and a regulations border down the Irish Sea — effectively splitting up the UK. A No10 source said: “They’re going to collectively try to drag us into an NI-only backstop.
“We won’t go there. We’ve made a big move. Now they need to show they want a deal”.
Addressing the Commons yesterday, Mr Johnson called his proposals “constructive and reasonable” and prove Britain has gone “the extra mile as time runs short”.
Pressed by fellow Tories, he did not rule out further compromise but said: “What the UK has done is already very considerable. I hope our friends on the other side of the Channel understand this.”
His chief EU adviser David Frost’s meetings with EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels yesterday will decide the fate of the UK offer.
BO HOLDS BARRED
PM scraps EU promise to abide by ‘level-playing field’ rules after Brexit
Irish PM sparks anger by claiming the Brits want a second Brexit vote
DEAL ME IN
Juncker agrees to talks on ‘determined’ Boris Johnson’s 11th hour Brexit plan
McDonnell’s lynching comments could have sparked murders, Rees-Mogg says
If the EU refuses to open full negotiations, No10 aides say Mr Johnson could announce a course for a No Deal as early as Monday.
Mr Barnier told EU ambassadors last night that the plan to align Northern Ireland with Brussels on all goods represents real progress.
But Dublin provoked a furious response from the DUP by saying it “couldn’t possibly” accept handing Northern Irish MPs a veto over following EU rules.
CHAOS OF NO DEAL IS NOT FEARED
A NO Deal Brexit would cause “short-term disruption” not widespread disorder and economic chaos, a think-tank says.
Open Europe claims steps the Government takes could “considerably mitigate” most risks.
It urges ministers to ensure import and export processes are smooth.
Lorries going overseas should be pre-cleared at regional centres to prevent tailbacks at ports.
Firms should be given greater clarity over the UK’s long-term tariff regime so they can plan for the future, it says.
Income tax and corporation tax should be cut to help offset any economic disruption.
Open Europe analyst Dominic Walsh said: “No Deal would not be the end of the world, but neither would it be a walk in the park.
“No Deal is not a self-determining event. What the UK does next is just as important.”