Antti Rinne to Boris Johnson: new Brexit proposals fail on at least three counts

Finnish Prime Minister tells his British counterpart that his latest Brexit plans for the Irish border are not up to scratch.

Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons License

Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) has told his British counterpart Boris Johnson in no uncertain terms that his new Brexit proposals fall short of expectations in several key areas.

The two prime ministers had a phone call on Saturday at Johnson’s initiative, to discuss  new written plans the British government has made to the European Union about ways to beat the current impasse over Brexit.

Britain is set to leave the EU on 31st October with or without a deal that’s approved by both the EU and the British parliament. A deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May was approved by the European Commission but rejected by Members of Parliament in London three times.

“Prime Minister Johnson described the current situation in the United Kingdom and provided his assessment of the conditions for negotiations with the EU Commission” says Rinne.

“I responded by stating Finland’s position, which is that it is important that the UK has now put forth written proposals for alternative solutions to replace the previously negotiated withdrawal agreement” Rinne explains in a statement.

“I remarked that the proposed solutions do not ensure the upholding of the Good Friday Agreement, the unity of the EU and a well-functioning internal market” he adds.

What’s in the new UK proposals?

The fresh proposals put forward by Johnson and the UK government over the last few days include ideas for solving the contentious issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The EU stands with Ireland and insists there must be no hard border on the island, which would be violation of the spirit, if not the explicit terms, of the Good Friday Agreement.

Former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri (NCP) was one of the architects behind the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed in 1998 and brought an end to decades of civil unrest in Northern Ireland; and laid the groundwork for political and civilian reconciliation.

Boris Johnson’s latest ideas include keeping Northern Ireland inside the EU single market for goods, but outside the EU customs union with the rest of the UK. This would mean some new checks would have to be carried out both in the Irish Sea between mainland UK and Northern Ireland, and somewhere along the border on the island of Ireland itself.

Critics have said that in trying to solve the problem of one border, Johnson would in effect create two borders.

“I told Johnson that it is important to find a solution within a week so that the matter can be dealt with properly at the October European Council” says Rinne, with Finland currently holding the rotating six-month Presidency of the European Council.

“Johnson stated that he agreed with the timetable and understood that the conditions I presented regarding upholding the Good Friday Agreement, maintaining the unity of the EU and ensuring a functional internal market are a prerequisite for a solution. I said that I would discuss the situation with Barnier during the weekend” Rinne adds.