Old photographs of a pre-fame Steve Coogan in Greater Manchester

Steve Coogan with his sports car in Manchester.
MEP and chair of European Parliament Brexit Steering Committee Guy Verhofstadt tells me the European Parliament is "very sceptical" about Boris Johnson’s proposals. He says there is "not a serious alternative" to the backstop but rather a "repackaging of old proposals".

Mr Verhofstadt describes the PM's offer as neither realistic nor viable. He says the EU questioned whether Mr Johnson really was serious about striking a deal, especially he said after hearing reports of alleged No 10 memo instructing Tory MPs to blame EU if no new deal is agreed.

The European Parliament is poised to publish their main objections to the proposals. As you hear across EU now, the central concern is customs. Mr Verhofstadt says current UK proposal would endanger the Northern Ireland peace process and "dramatically" expose the single market to the risk of smuggling.

"What of Mr Juncker's talk of positive elements of proposals; Mr Barnier’s mention of progress?" I ask.

Mr Verhofstadt says the area the UK has most progressed in addressing EU concerns is alignment on goods regulations - but at the same time the PM's proposals give Northern Ireland power-sharing government a veto.

Mr Verhofstadt concludes the PM's proposals were "absolutely not an alternative to the backstop". He says it is "in the hands of Mr Johnson" whether or not a new Brexit deal can be struck.

If the PM presents "serious proposals", says Mr Verhofstadt, then a new agreement could be made.

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