The Guardian has today reported that Boris Johnson has struck a secret deal with the Democratic Unionist party involving radical proposals for a Belfast-Dublin “bilateral lock” on post-Brexit arrangements on the island of Ireland.
Details have emerged of the prime minister’s final Brexit offer that he will lay out on Wednesday, with Northern Ireland staying under EU single market regulations for agri-food and manufactured goods until at least 2025, at which point its assembly in Stormont will decide whether to continue alignment with EU or UK standards.
According to the Guardian report, Johnson set up a high-stakes fortnight of talks with a threat that he will press ahead with a no-deal exit if the EU27 fails to engage with his plans.
One central element of the proposals is expected to be a “Stormont lock,” giving local parties a say on any future proposals to keep the region aligned to EU rules and maintain an invisible border with the Republic of Ireland if Britain decided to diverge from European standards on goods and food.
Also crucial is the reestablishment of a newly empowered British-Irish ministerial council which was set up under the Belfast/Good Friday agreement but has not sat for three years. The restored council would give representatives from Stormont and the Irish parliament oversight on the future regulatory regime on the island of Ireland.
In his speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Wednesday, the embattled prime minister will outline what he will call a “fair and reasonable compromise”, which Downing Street says has been drawn up after 70 hours of discussions with other EU member states.
He will insist that if the EU27 fails to engage with his proposals, he will press ahead with a no-deal Brexit at the end of October.