The Latest: EU Parliament’s Brexit official cautious on plan

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — The Latest on Brexit and British politics (all times local):

7:10 p.m.

The European Parliament’s chief Brexit official said the British government’s new Brexit plan does not give Ireland sufficient guarantees.

European lawmakers need to approve any Brexit deal, and its top legislators assessed Wednesday’s new proposals from Britain with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Afterward, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt said “the first assessment of nearly every member in the Brexit Steering Group was not positive.”

He said the group would flesh out objections on Thursday.

The main sticking point between the EU and Britain has centered on the border on the island of Ireland. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that a previously agreed insurance measure to make sure no hard border emerges between EU member state Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., is ditched.

The plan he’s sent over to Brussels ditches that so-called backstop agreement in favor of new customs arrangements.


6:30 p.m.

The British government says it will ask Queen Elizabeth II to suspend Parliament for a few days next week ahead of a speech laying out the administration’s plans.

The move comes over a week after the U.K. Supreme Court ruled an earlier five-week shutdown of the legislature unlawful. In that case, the court said the suspension had the effect of frustrating Parliament’s ability to scrutinize the government’s Brexit plan.

The new proposal is likely to be far less controversial. The government wants Parliament to break from Tuesday evening until Monday, Oct, 14, when the government will launch a new session and a fresh legislative program with a Queen’s Speech.

A short suspension of that kind is routine and usually happens about once a year.


6 p.m.

The European Union’s Brexit negotiator says that the Brexit proposals of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson constitute “progress” that finally opens up room for negotiations before the crucial EU summit in two weeks’ time.

Michel Barnier said though that the gap between both sides remains daunting and “to be frank lots of work still needs to be done” to meet the three key conditions of the EU.

The border on the island of Ireland remains the key sticking point and the EU is insistent it remains transparent and open, that any deal doesn’t hamper the seamless economic cooperation between the EU’s Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and that any border deal respects the rules of the EU internal market.

Barnier said “we will continue to work, to work to reach a deal. The ‘no-deal’ will never be the choice of the EU, never.”


5:30 p.m.

The European Union presidency says that the 27 member states are ready to look at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposals “constructively.”

Finland, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, said that the European Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker will assess the proposals “and is ready to engage actively.”

The statement added that “the EU 27 will stay united” during the upcoming negotiations.


5:05 p.m.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has welcomed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “determination” to advance Brexit talks and said negotiations on Johnson’s new withdrawal deal proposal would take place “over coming days.”

Despite a yawning gap between the two sides, the European Commission said Juncker “acknowledged the positive advances” in some of the proposals Johnson submitted on Wednesday.

At the same time, the commission said “the president noted that there are still some problematic points that will need further work in the coming days.”

If there is to be any divorce deal before the U.K. leaves the EU as scheduled on Oct. 31, both sides have said they would need to reach an agreement by the time an EU summit set for Oct. 17-18 EU summit ends.

Johnson said in his letter to Juncker that his proposals “provide a basis for rapid negotiations.” In his reply, Juncker has left the door open for a solution to be found that resolves remaining differences.


3:20 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she can’t comment yet on the new Brexit proposals put forward by the U.K. government but is stressing the importance of the 27 remaining EU countries maintaining a united front.

Britain’s Brexit envoy was in Brussels Wednesday to deliver Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposal for kick-starting negotiations on a divorce deal. Johnson said it represents a reasonable compromise for both the U.K. and the E.U.

Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin with visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte: “We will look carefully at the proposals. I can’t say anything about them yet today.”

She added that “for us, it is very important that we as 27 (countries) stick together. We trust in (EU negotiator) Michel Barnier, and we will discuss it further.”


3:15 p.m.

Britain has sent its proposals for a Brexit deal to leaders of the European Union, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging “rapid negotiations towards a solution.”

The proposals submitted on Wednesday focus on maintaining an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland - the key sticking point to a Brexit deal.

Johnsons says in a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that the U.K. proposes to do that by keeping Northern Ireland closely aligned to EU rules for trade in goods, possibly for an extended period.

He says not reaching a deal would be “a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.”


2:05 p.m.

British Brexit envoy David Frost has arrived at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels to deliver Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposal for kick-starting stalled negotiations on a divorce deal.

Carrying a black leather portfolio, Frost did not speak to the media as he entered the Berlaymont Commission building.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, plans to make a first assessment of the document to see if Johnson’s proposal is a basis for late-hour negotiations. Barnier then will take it to the European Parliament’s experts and the ambassadors of the 27 EU nations for further discussion.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker will also have a first look at the proposal that centers on how to manage the border on the island of Ireland. Juncker expects to have a telephone call with Johnson to discuss future talks.


1:50 p.m.

The European Union has approved Brexit preparedness measures to soften the financial blow to workers in the bloc’s remaining countries in case Britain leaves in a chaotic and costly no-deal scenario.

Finnish Employment Minister Timo Harakka said Wednesday that “these measures will ensure that anyone who loses their job as a result of hard Brexit will not be let down.” Finland currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

The measures would allow such workers to get financial aid from a fund that helps EU citizens losing their jobs as “a result of major structural changes in world trade patterns.” A no-deal Brexit meets those standards for getting aid from the European Globalization Adjustment Fund.

No other financial details were immediately available.

Harakka said: “Solidarity is a core value of the EU, and we have to make sure that in the event of major economic disruption, nobody is left behind.”


12:25 p.m.

The European Union says it will give any proposal from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson serious legal vetting before saying whether it is worthy of being a basis for future talks on the U.K.’s departure from the EU.

The European Commission said in a statement that “once received, we will examine [the UK text] objectively & in light of well-known criteria,” which includes whether it prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, preserves cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and respects the EU rules on trade across borders.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to speak with Johnson in the afternoon and technical talks among both sides are also set up.


11:55 a.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there will be “grave consequences for trust in our democracy” if Brexit is delayed beyond Oct. 31 and vows there will be no custom checks at the Northern Ireland border.

Britain narrowly voted in 2016 to leave the EU but remains deeply divided over the departure terms.

The comments came as Johnson described his offer for Brexit deal to the European Union on Wednesday, as the date for Britain’s departure from the bloc looms.

Johnson insisted that “under no circumstances “would there be customs checks at the border in Northern Ireland under the proposed deal, one of the main sticking points of talks.

Johnson says the proposal is a “constructive and reasonable compromise,” but it’s likely to face deep skepticism from EU leaders, who doubt the U.K. has a workable plan to avoid checks on goods or people crossing the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland after Brexit.


8:05 a.m.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will send what he says is the U.K.'s “final offer” for a Brexit deal to the European Union, with the date set for Britain’s departure less than a month away.

Johnson says the proposal is a “fair and reasonable compromise.” But it is likely to face skepticism from EU leaders, who doubt the U.K. has a workable plan to avoid border checks between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.

The British government says it will send the proposals to Brussels after Johnson closes his Conservative Party’s annual conference on Wednesday. Johnson says he’ll walk away from talks if the EU refuses to “engage” with the U.K. plan.

Johnson insists Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a deal.


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