UK’s Johnson Warns Of Violating Public Trust Without Brexit

    Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media outside 10 Downing Street in London, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. Johnson says he doesn't want an election amid Brexit crisis and issued a rallying cry to lawmakers to back him in securing Brexit deal.(Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP)

    MANCHESTER, England (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will send what he called a “constructive and reasonable” compromise for a Brexit deal to the European Union on Wednesday, as he warned of grave consequences for trust in democracy if Britain fails to leave the bloc in less than a month.

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    British voters in 2016 narrowly chose to leave the EU but the country remains deeply divided over the departure terms. In a speech Wednesday to the Conservative Party’s annual conference, Johnson underscored the fear of violating public belief in democracy should Brexit not happen.

    “After three and a half years, people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools,” he told party members in Manchester, northern England. “They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all. And if they turn out to be right in that suspicion, then I believe there will be grave consequences for trust in our democracy.”

    The new British plans are 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.

    Johnson insisted that there would not be customs checks at the border in Northern Ireland under the proposed deal, one of the main sticking points of the Brexit talks.

    “We will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland,” he declared.

    A Brexit agreement between the EU and his predecessor, Theresa May, was rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament, largely because of opposition to the “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to ensure there is no return to customs posts or other infrastructure on the Irish border.

    An open border underpins both the local economy and Northern Ireland’s peace process. But Johnson and other British Brexit supporters oppose the backstop because it would keep the U.K. tightly bound to EU trade rules in order to avoid customs checks — limiting the country’s ability to strike new trade deals around the world.

    So far, the U.K. has floated the idea of a common area for livestock and agricultural products, plus largely untested “technological solutions” as a replacement for the backstop.

    The Daily Telegraph reported the new U.K. plan proposes to keep Northern Ireland in a regulatory zone with the EU for food, agricultural and industrial products until 2025. The EU has previously rejected any proposals that contain a time limit.

    Johnson said late Tuesday that convincing the EU to strike a deal would not be “a walk in the park,” but he thought agreement could be reached by the time the bloc’s leaders meet for a key summit in Brussels on Oct. 17-18.

    “We have made huge progress and I hope very much that in the course of the next few days we are going to get there,” he told a reception at the Conservative conference.

    Johnson says the U.K. can handle any bumps that come from tumbling out of the bloc without a deal, which would mean the instant imposition of customs checks and other barriers between Britain and the EU, its biggest trading partner.

    A no-deal Brexit “not an outcome we want …(but) it is an outcome for which we are ready,” he said in his speech Wednesday.

    But the U.K. government and businesses both say the disruptions would be substantial, with the flow of goods coming into Britain through the major Channel port of Dover cut in half.

    Many lawmakers want to prevent a no-deal exit, and have passed a law that compels the government to seek a delay to Brexit if it can’t get an agreement with the EU by Oct. 19. Johnson says he won’t do that — though he also insists he will obey the law.

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