Thursday 10 October 2019 1:47 pm

Boris Johnson holds Brexit talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar

Boris Johnson is holding talks with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this afternoon to discuss the UK’s latest Brexit proposal.

Number 10 said the pair will meet in North East England to “have detailed discussions” about the government’s proposal for a post-Brexit agreement on the island of Ireland.

Read more: Brexit extension beyond halloween now priced in

The meetings comes in the wake of European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s comments that the EU and the UK “are not really in a position where we are able to find an agreement”.

Johnson and Varadkar will discuss the government’s plan to scrap the Irish backstop and keep Northern Ireland in the single market for goods only.

The plan would require non-border customs checks and a clause whereby the Northern Ireland assembly must give consent to the plan every four years, despite not having sat since January 2017.

Barnier said yesterday the plans are “not something we can accept”.

Varadkar, meanwhile, said the UK’s latest position presented problems for the Irish government.

“Part of the difficulty at the moment though is it is the position of the UK government that Northern Ireland must leave the EU customs union and be part of the UK customs union, no matter what the people of Northern Ireland think,” he said.

“That’s their position at the moment, and that’s the one that’s of grave difficulty to us.”

Theresa May’s Brexit proposal included the Irish backstop, which would have kept the UK in a customs union with the EU.

This would have prevented a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which was a part of the Good Friday peace deal between the countries.

However, this proved unacceptable to Brexiteers who believed this may have resulted in the UK being trapped in a customs union indefinitely.

Johnson has said publicly he believes his updated Brexit proposal can be implemented, however a leaked Number 10 memo suggests the government expects it to fail.

A text message sent to The Spectator, and widely accredited to Number 10 chief strategist Dominic Cummings, said the deal will not be accepted and that Johnson will instead look to push through a no-deal brexit.

The so-called Benn act will force the prime minister to ask Brussels for a Brexit extension on October 19 if no deal has been reached by this point.

Read more: Centrist Tories reassured over no-deal Brexit after Downing Street meeting

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the party will agree to a general election before the end of the year if this extension is sought.

The text message believed to be sent by Cummings says the government will then run an election campaign on a no-deal Brexit platform.

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