After greeting Boris Johnson's Brexit plan with what Reuters described as "cautious optimism", it appears several key players in the EU27 coalition have turned against the agreement, according to a leaked report published Thursday morning.
According to Reuters, "a European Parliament Brexit group believes that Johnson’s proposals 'do not represent a basis for an agreement,' according to the draft of a statement...ahead of release later in the day."
The aspect of Johnson's deal that appears to most rankle Europe is, ironically, a provision that gives Northern Ireland a vote on whether to remain a part of a post-Brexit regulatory zone that would also involve 'devolved' customs checks without requiring a hard border. This is Johnson's proposal to replace the hated Irish Backstop, which Johnson and many of his fellow Tories say they can't accept.
In addition to the objection from the European Parliament, one senior EU official said Johnson's proposal "can't fly" because it doesn't offer enough assurances that there won't be a return to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which would constitute a violation of the Good Friday agreement.
Another EU official said Johnson's proposal "needed to be reworked."
Separately, a senior EU official said Johnson’s proposal “can’t fly”, largely because it did not offer a solution for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland once the UK province has left the EU’s customs union.
"It does not contain any decent solution for customs. And it erects a hard border on the island of Ireland," said the senior EU official.
"It would have to be fundamentally reworked," an EU diplomat said, adding that time was short before the bloc’s leaders meet in Brussels in two weeks for a make-or-break Brexit summit on Oct. 17-18.
Offering a slightly more enthusiastic take, an official in the Irish government said Johnson's plan was "the basis for discussions" but not "of an agreement."
In Dublin, which is crucial to any deal, Junior Finance Minister Patrick O’Donovan said Johnson’s offer was the basis for discussions but not of an agreement.
Despite this setback, Johnson was trying to sell his deal to Parliament Thursday morning, inspiring a lengthy debate during PMQs. Johnson delivered his 'ultimatum' on Wednesday, telling the EU that it could either accept his plan, or accept responsibility for a 'no deal' Brexit.