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UK Brexit proposals do not 'represent a basis for an agreement': MEPs
[BRUSSELS] Britain's new Brexit proposals to the EU do not "represent the basis for an agreement" because they "fall short" in several key areas, the European Parliament's Brexit steering group said on Thursday.
The British government submitted a new "compromise" plan on Wednesday but MEPS have raised concerns about abolishing the so-called backstop, intended to keep goods flowing freely between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
They are also worried the proposals threaten the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the Northern Ireland conflict, and harm the EU's Single Market, which has opened up trade between member states.
"The proposals do not address the real issues that need to be resolved if the backstop were to be removed, namely the all-island economy (for Ireland), the full respect of the Good Friday Agreement and the integrity of the Single Market," it said in a statement.
The group is guiding the European Parliament on Brexit and will be called on to approve or reject any final deal that might be struck between the EU and Britain.
It listed "grave concerns" over the Brexit proposals submitted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government.
These included "unclear" proposals on how customs infrastructure near the border of Britain's territory of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland can be avoided, MEPs said.
They also cited the lack of guarantee that the proposal's details can be worked out in a transition period running to the end of 2020.
Finally, worries circled around the plan's aim to give a "unilateral" right to the Northern Ireland assembly to decide whether the agreement there would apply.
The Brexit steering group "does not find these last minute proposals... in their current form, represent a basis for an agreement to which the European Parliament could give consent."
Britain's proposals call for Northern Ireland and the UK to leave the EU customs regime, but for EU standards to conditionally continue in Northern Ireland to facilitate trade with Ireland.
MEPs found that did not come close to the guarantees offered in the withdrawal agreement Mr Johnson's predecessor signed with the EU.
That pact contained a backstop guaranteeing that all of the UK - including Northern Ireland - would stay in the EU customs union until a better solution was found.
But that agreement was rejected three times by the UK parliament.
"The UK proposals do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop," the MEPs said in their statement.