Government’s new NI legal argument is just the Withdrawal Agreement with backstop parts ‘crossed out’

As Boris Johnson plans to meet his cabinet, it has been claimed that the government's legal argument

As Boris Johnson plans to meet his cabinet, it has been claimed that the government's legal argument for dropping the backstop is just the existing text with the backstop crossed out. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

After reports that the Number 10 plans to present legal arguments to the EU for dropping the backstop, it has been claimed that the draft is simply the same text 'with the relevant articles on the backstop crossed out'.

According to a leaked agenda for this afternoon's cabinet meeting, ministers are to be presented with draft legal texts aimed at persuading the EU to drop the Northern Irish backstop.

However, Sky News' Sam Coates has reported sources telling him it is, in his words, "not exactly a worked up plan".

He tweeted: "Cabinet ministers to be told draft legal text on Northern Ireland plan has been drawn up and ready to be introduced. BUT a source says draft legal text is just the existing protocol with the relevant articles on the backstop crossed out - not exactly a worked up plan."

The Telegraph's editor Peter Foster also asked a senior source about the question, and tweeted: "Apparently there is, technically a 'legal text', but it's just the old backstop 'with all the important bits crossed out'... it 'took about half an hour'."

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The news will not excite anyone who was hoping that Boris Johnson is making best use of his self-described "blistering timetable" to propose alternative arrangements to the EU.

During a visit to EU leaders, he leapt at an offhand comment by Angela Merkel to suggest that he had been given 30 days to come up with proposals.

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However, since then the government has released no new ideas publicly.

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The agenda for the meeting, which was leaked to Sky, confirms much of the government's priorities for the next ten days, but has few details on how Johnson plans to provide workable alternatives to the current Withdrawal Agreement.

Instead of following up on realistic alternatives to the backstop as suggested by EU leaders, ministers are expected to be told that there is little prospect of forcing the EU to change its view if the UK does not appear serious about no-deal.

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