EU officials have leaked a critical assessment, as reported by Sky News, dismissing the UK's latest proposals as ones that did not provide a "legally operational" alternative to the Irish backstop, a stumbling block in Theresa May’s Brexit proposal to be reconsidered in a new deal. The draft proposals, the memo reportedly outlined, "fall short of satisfying all the objectives" of the regulatory system on the Irish border: namely it failed to avoid a hard border, protect the all-island economy in its integrity and preserve the single market.
The EU memo stressed the UK had "confirmed that the proposed concepts do not amount to legally operational solutions and would have to be developed during the transition period". However, a UK government source has hit back, insisting its proposals were "serious and workable", taking a dig at the EU arguing leaks from Brussels were simply "par for the course".
"As for the Commission, two months ago they said we couldn't reopen the withdrawal agreement and there was absolutely no alternative to the backstop. Now we are having detailed discussions", the source explained.
Earlier, the British government indicated that the papers sent to the EU this week were more ideas for discussion than formal documents outlining their stance.
However, the decision itself to leak the document, which was circulated to ambassadors from the other 27 EU countries, could potentially be seen as a bid by European Commission hardliners to hurt talks that have been gathering momentum, as follows from fresh newspaper covers and netizens' comments:
Eu Hatches Plot To Sink Britain's Brexit Plan. Brussels leaks memo dismissing backstop alternatives as PM prepares for crucial talks - https://t.co/QILxMV3zSr @AVMikhailova @JamesCrisp6#frontpagestoday #UK #TheDailyTelegraph #buyapaper pic.twitter.com/QpVkoYkHh9— Front Pages Today (@ukpapers) September 21, 2019
#Brexit #EU -— Didier Delmer Esq. 🏴🇬🇧 (@DidierDelmer) September 20, 2019
The EU appeared to jeopardise #Boris Johnson’s efforts to secure a Brexit deal on Friday night, after leaking a memo critical of the UK’s new proposals for an alternative to the backstop.
It’s almost like they don’t want a deal. They don’t want us to leave either. I guess these endless extensions are ok by them.— Hengist McHaggis Esq. (@HiHengist) September 21, 2019
The mood around Brexit was significantly buoyed the other day after several EU leaders, including Irish PM Varadkar and EU chief Juncker, shared positive expectations about the deal now in the making, as Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay persists with talks in Brussels.
"We both recognise that a deal is in the interests of both sides", Mr Barclay said after his sit-down with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
He added that "no-one wants to see no-deal" but cautioned there was "still a lot of work to do" to avoid the scenario.
Downing Street is expected in the coming weeks to come up with formal alternatives to the backstop - an insurance policy to stop a hard, physical border returning on the island of Ireland.
On Thursday, the EU’s Juncker stressed he has no "erotic relation to the backstop" and would welcome a deal presupposing a viable alternative to it, as long as all the overall objectives are effectively met. He also confirmed "we can have a deal" after sharing positive emotions following his and Johnson’s joint luncheon in Luxembourg on Monday.
Meanwhile, both Johnson, and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, agreed there has been some tangible progress in Brexit negotiations, with the latter stating though "the gaps are still very wide".
The British government recently shrugged off a newly-imposed EU ultimatum of 30 September for a new deal and a blueprint for an Irish backstop alternative, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly looking forward to "10 intensive days" of Brexit work in the run-up to an approaching EU summit.