British prime minister Boris Johnson has urged the EU to match his “compromise” on Brexit or face Britain leaving with no deal.
In his first Tory conference speech as prime minister, Johnson repeatedly stressed his commitment to “get Brexit done” and insisted the UK would leave the EU on October 31, despite parliament passing laws to block no deal.
He held out an olive branch to his opponents, saying he did not doubt their “patriotism” and stressing he wanted to deliver Brexit for those who voted Remain but were “first and foremost democrats” who “accept the result of the referendum”.
The prime minister confirmed reports that he wants to introduce customs checks on Ireland as part of his efforts to replace the Irish backstop, an insurance policy to maintain an invisible border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Critics have already seized on a leak of the proposals, dubbed by the Telegraph “two borders for four years”, as evidence Johnson is not serious about striking a new agreement with the EU and appears to want a no-deal Brexit.
But addressing supporters in Manchester, Johnson stressed the plans to leave Northern Ireland in a close relationship with Europe until 2025 were “constructive and reasonable” and “provide a compromise for both sides”, while allowing the UK to strike free-trade deals around the world.
He insisted that despite proposed new customs controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and a regulatory border between the province and the UK mainland, there would be no checks “at or near the border”.
The plans will ensure the Good Friday peace agreement would be respected, and that the Northern Ireland’s political parties have a say in how the province’s relationship with the EU evolves over time, he said.
“Yes this is a compromise by the UK,” Johnson said.
“And I hope very much that our friends understand that and compromise in their turn.
“Because if we fail to get an agreement because of what is essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks, when that technology is improving the whole time, then let us be in no doubt that the alternative is no deal.
“That is not an outcome we want. It is not an outcome we seek at all.
“But let me tell you this, conference, it is an outcome for which we are ready.”
European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said technical talks with the PM’s Europe adviser David Frost and the UK team will take place on Wednesday afternoon in Brussels.
“Once we receive the text, we will look at it objectively,” she said.
“We want to enter into constructive discussions, so I will certainly not pre-empt any reaction here before even having received the text.”