Canada+++ is only an option with an Irish ‘backstop’

by Hugo Dixon | 05.10.2018

Hard Brexiters are over-excited that the EU is calling for a Canada+++ deal. But they haven’t got what they want – unless, that is, they are preparing to sell Northern Ireland down the river.

Donald Tusk said yesterday: “From the very beginning, the EU offer has been a Canada+++ deal – much further-reaching on trade, internal security and foreign policy cooperation.” But, in the same breath, the European Council president demanded that Theresa May get down to business” and solve the Irish border issue.

When the EU talks about Canada+++, one of the pluses is that there has to be a legally-watertight deal to keep the Irish border open in all circumstances – the so-called backstop.

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Nigel Farage urged May to “bite his hand off”. Boris Johnson crowed that Tusk’s comments marked a “superb way forward”. However, the former foreign secretary did at least add: “The first step to achieving a mutually beneficial SuperCanada deal is the removal of the Irish backstop so there is no threat to the Union whatsoever.”

And that’s what’s so hopeless about the hard Brexiters’ proposal. It’s not just that a Canada-style deal would damage our manufacturers’ supply lines and do little to help our services industries. There will be no Canada+++ deal without an Irish backstop – something Johnson once described as a “suicide vest”.

Unless he has changed his mind and is prepared to agree border checks in the Irish Sea – something that would cross the “blood red” line of his new best friend Arlene Foster, the DUP’s leader – a Johnsonian negotiation would rapidly lead to no deal at all.

But the prime minister’s own emerging “Chequers 2.0” scheme is equally hapless. It involves even more rule-taking than her dead Chequers 1.0 proposal, including on trade with the rest of the world, as well as regulatory checks in the Irish Sea – and it’s not even clear the EU will accept it.

With factions of the Conservative Party still squabbling over miserable proposals that aren’t even viable, there’s only one reasonable solution: ask the people what they want. That’s why it’s important to get out and march in favour of People’s Vote on October 20 – and ask your friends to come too.

3 Responses to “Canada+++ is only an option with an Irish ‘backstop’”

  • Isn’t it also true that, in order to trade under WTO rules, there has to be a hard border between north and south? It’s all pure madness! #PeoplesVote

  • Interesting that Nigel says “bite his hands off…”. He is obviously worried about the flaws in the 2016 leave campaign, and the prospect of a people’s vote.

  • It is notable that the +++ elements of Tusk’s offer included security and foreign policy. As hoc arrangements in these areas will only go part way to rectify the strategic and political damage caused to Western unity by Brexit. Russia and China will still be full of glee at the prospect.