Johnson: Ten days to negotiate a deal

The Sun has published an interview with the prime minister, conducted on the eve of his first speech to Tory conference as leader.

In it, Boris Johnson says there is a ten day timetable to negotiate a new deal with the EU:

“Ten days should be enough. If there’s a deal to be done, it could be done in that time. Genuinely. If there isn’t, then we’ll know. That’s the truth.”

Asked whether he was prepared to consider a counter-offer from Brussels, the prime minister said: “Well, we’ll look at anything, of course.”

Away from Brexit, the prime minister also hinted his government planned tax cuts in any upcoming Budget.

Brexit on the fringes of the Conservative party conference

FT Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne gets behind the scenes at the Manchester conference to see if the party faithful will support a compromise to ‘get Brexit done.’

Johnson preparing his conference speech last night

Irish deputy PM: ‘I wouldn’t be too encouraged’

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said he is not encouraged by the details of the UK’s Brexit plan which have emerged overnight.

In a clip broadcast on Sky News, Mr Coveney said there is unlikely to be a deal if the UK is proposing customs checks anywhere on the island of Ireland.

We want to wait and see a detailed proposal and we will obviously make an assessment of it then. But certainly, from what we are reading this morning I wouldn’t be too encouraged by it. Essentially if he is proposing customs checks on the island of Ireland then I don’t think that is going to be the basis of an agreement, but let’s wait and see the detail of that before we make a full judgement on it.

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Deal, no-deal, delay

Check out George Parker’s excellent analysis of the three potential Brexit outcomes that are on the cards.

The prime minister’s team say a deal is by far the best scenario, not just from an economic point of view but also because it would help the Conservatives win the next general election.

As a second best outcome, Boris Johnson is still willing to countenance a no-deal Brexit, and Downing Street is modelling such a scenario even though it admits this would be highly disruptive for the economy.

The prime minister’s team gives the impression that it has a plan to “cheat” the legislation intended to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

If this fails, they would be left with the third and worst possible outcome – a Brexit delay. Government insiders say this would leave the country in a very dangerous place, with outrage from Brexit supporters potentially erupting into violence.

You can read George’s full analysis here

Sterling edges lower with focus on UK Brexit plan

Sterling was heading lower ahead of Mr Johnson’s conference speech, with investors focused on the likelihood of the prime minister striking a deal with the EU over the Irish border.

The pound was recently 0.3 per cent lower against the US dollar, at $1.2272.

Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid said “today could be the beginning of the end for any hopes of a deal ahead of the EU council meeting in two weeks” given that there are early signs the UK proposals will receive a frosty reception in Dublin and Brussels.

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Make or break time

George Parker reports from Manchester:

The prime minister’s allies have said the proposal to be sent to Brussels this afternoon has “evolved significantly” in the past 24 hours and that if the EU rejects it, the UK will break off talks and start preparing for a no-deal exit.

Under the plan, set to be published at 4pm today, Britain is prepared to extend EU regulation to industrial goods in Northern Ireland to ease trade flows across the border with the Republic, on top of Mr Johnson’s existing plan to create a single all-Ireland zone for animal and food health checks. 

However, the proposal does nothing to address the crucial issue of customs controls, and Mr Johnson has put himself on a collision course with the EU by insisting that Northern Ireland must leave the bloc’s customs union in any deal. 

Prospects for a deal suffered a serious blow last night when British officials blamed the Irish government for leaking the plan.

Sir Edward Lister, Mr Johnson’s chief of staff, gave Dublin an advanced sight of the plan on Tuesday, adding to Number 10’s fury about the leak. No other EU capital was briefed ahead of its intended publication later today.

Tory party chair says UK will leave at end of October ‘whatever’

James Cleverly, Tory party chair, said on Radio 4’s Today programme that “if we can’t get a deal over the line at this point we are going to leave without a deal”.

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He added: “We are going to leave on 31st October whatever.”

Mr Cleverly added that “negotiations of this complexity …. always always go to the 11th hour”.

The UK over the last 18 months or so has been pragmatic and it has been flexible. What we need to see now is the EU being flexible

The Northern Ireland backstop, which aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland once the UK leaves the EU, Mr Cleverly called “unacceptable” as it was previously structured.

He said how ever the situation is resolved it must be done “with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. The peace and prosperity of the Good Friday Agreement must be protected and must be supported.”

Live from Manchester for the Tory party conference

Welcome back. The Financial Times’ live blogging team returns as Boris Johnson prepares to address his party faithful this morning in Manchester.

The prime minister is expected to make a “final offer” to Brussels on Wednesday morning to end the Brexit deadlock, insisting in a speech to the Conservative party conference that his plan is a “reasonable compromise” and offers the last chance to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit. Mr Johnson is due to speak at 11:40am.

The final day of the conference looks like this:

10:00am: Panel on strengthening the union with Alister Jack, Julian Smith and Alun Cairns
10:45am: Panel with Baroness Evans, Victoria Atkins, Maria Miller and Gillian Keegan
11:40am: Speech by Boris Johnson



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