PARIS, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 18: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne prior their meeting at the Elysee Presidential Palace on September 18, 2019 in Paris, France.
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The U.K. has until September 30 to make written proposals to replace the controversial Irish backstop or its relationship with the EU is over, the leaders of France and Finland agreed Wednesday.
The ultimatum comes as frustration grows in EU circles ahead of the October 31 departure date. Several European officials and leaders have argued that they had reached a deal with the previous U.K. government, called the Withdrawal Agreement, and if the current British leadership does not want to leave the bloc under those terms, then it’s up to the U.K. to make new proposals – something that the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has not yet done.
“If the U.K. wants to discuss alternatives to the existing Brexit agreement then these must be presented before the end of the month,” the Finnish Prime Minister, Antti Rinne, told reporters on Wednesday, according to Sky News.
“If not by then, then it’s over,” Rinne added about the U.K.’s relationship with the other European countries.
His remarks came after a meeting with the French President, Emmanuel Macron – a hard-liner during the Brexit process.
The U.K. government has reportedly sent proposals to the European Commission on Thursday, according to Reuters. A spokesperson for the European Commission, however, said Thursday that the institution received “documents” from the U.K., which will be analyzed Thursday and Friday. The European Commission did not specify what these documents were.
Earlier on Wednesday, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “It is not good enough to explain why the (Irish) backstop needs to be removed. We need legally operational solutions in the Withdrawal Agreement to reply precisely to each of these problems.”
The U.K. government, under the leadership of Boris Johnson, is against the Withdrawal Agreement due to one sticking point: the Irish backstop. This is an insurance policy that would essentially prevent a hard border in the area splitting Northern Ireland (part of the U.K.) and the Republic of Ireland (an EU member state). Boris Johnson, and other Brexit supporters, believe this so-called backstop could break up the United Kingdom, given that there would be different sets of rules in Northern Ireland compared to Scotland or England.
The EU keeps arguing that their intention is not to trigger the Irish backstop; rather its aim is to reach a trade deal as soon as possible, but it needs the Irish backstop in the exit deal to protect its single market in the event a deal is not reached.
The U.K. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said that a deal is possible at an upcoming European summit on October 17. However, European leaders want to discuss the U.K.’s proposals ahead of that summit and, have hence asked the U.K. to submit these proposals by the end of September.
In an exclusive interview with CNBC Friday, Finland’s Antti Rinne said a no-deal Brexit is likely.
This chance of a no-deal Brexit increases if there are no proposals by the end of the month. Despite the EU’s willingness to reach an agreement on the U.K.’s departure, as well as legislation from the U.K. Parliament against a no-deal Brexit, the lack of an agreement means a no-deal Brexit is likely.
The only ways to prevent a no-deal Brexit on October 31 are: if there is an agreement between the U.K. government and the EU that is then approved by the U.K. parliament; or if the U.K. requests another extension and the other 27 European countries approve that request.