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PM calls backstop undemocratic: he has odd idea of democracy

by David Hannay | 12.08.2019

No 10’s spokesman has taken to metronomically calling the Irish backstop “undemocratic”. Is it in any way justified?

Well, there is no doubt at all that the people of Northern Ireland voted by a substantial majority in 2016 to remain in the EU. So the backstop, which is merely designed to ensure that the economic relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland remains the same until effective alternative arrangements, which do not currently exist, are put in place to avoid any new border controls replacing those removed by the Good Friday Agreement. So the only thing undemocratic in Northern Ireland terms is the Democratic Unionist Party’s insistence on removing the backstop.

What about the UK as a whole, which did vote to leave the EU in 2016? Well the Good Friday Agreement is part of the constitutional order of the UK, and maintaining it by avoiding any new border controls was entrenched in statute in the 2018 EU Withdrawal Act. So that can hardly be said to be undemocratic.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal it is not the EU which will necessitate the levying of tariffs on goods crossing the border between the two parts of Ireland. It will be the obligations which both the UK and the EU have entered into democratically under their membership of the WTO which will require that.

So where is the claim of a lack of democracy in the Irish backstop coming from? Presumably it lies in the determination of a majority of the Conservative party to reject that part of an agreement freely entered into with the EU by the previous prime minister – ignoring the fact that the current prime minister signed up to the core principle in December 2017 when he was foreign secretary? (See para 49 of the “Joint Report”). That is a pretty odd definition of democracy. 

15 Responses to “PM calls backstop undemocratic: he has odd idea of democracy”

  • Hang on a mo.
    So if the UK leaves the EU without a deal WTO rules would require tariffs to be levied on goods crossing the Northern Ireland/Eire border?
    Would that be the same WTO which we are told would give us access to all sorts of amazing and wonderful trading opportunities that we do not have now?

    Is this some sort of Catch 22?

  • Why keep giving Joker Johnson’s lying all this attention? His supporters get a warm feeling inside because of it and it makes no difference in the way things will go anyway. Just tick it on a rap sheet and clobber him with it after the crash when it is clear just what he’s done!

  • The whole corrupt and shambolic farce has been in in democratic. To use the electoral system to try to settle an insoluble internal Tory Party quarrel was a gross abuse pf democracy. The fraud, barefaced lies and cheating from the rabid leavers who are driven by a blind hatred of the EU. One day the organisers and perpetrators of this whole nonsense must be held to account

  • They all use this inaccurate phrase about the backstop. Most people will not have a clue what the backstop is but put the word ‘undemocratic’ before it and that will equate it to something bad. I have heard Raab use it several times. Also, Sadiq Khan, recently exposed as a financier involved in selling very high risk investments prior to the crash.
    Why has the Guardian given space to Gisela Stuart this morning to repeat the leavers’ drivel- will if the people etc even if it means no deal?

  • Sorry, it should be Sajid Javed. Apologies to Sadiq. Wish this site had an edit facility. My brain went awol again

  • Giving this guy the oxygen of publicity all the time is not a good idea. Lets have a few pieces about Ursula von der Leyen or other decent people for a change

  • “Undemocratic” as applied by Mr Johnson and others to the Northern Ireland backstop is just a dogwhistle reference to the supposedly “undemocratic” EU. It harks back to the Leave campaign’s accusations of a “democratic deficit” in the “unelected” (because sovereign government-appointed) European Council and Commission, conveniently ignoring the elected European Parliament. Given that low-information, emotional Brexit voters are fed by simplistic soundbites, this tosses them an old Brexit meme — it doesn’t matter that on any serious examination, it is absurd.

  • Not only ignoring the elected European Parliament, but also ignoring our own unelected Prime Minister, the entire executive branch of government (unelected), the unelected second chamber and head of state. Not elected. Get out of that glass house or stop throwing stones.


  • Who elected Dominic Cummings? If the prime minister is bothered bout democracy that would be a good place for him to start. Most people feel that the backstop is democratic as it is designed to maintain peace and the rule of law which we all support in Ireland, north and south. Johnson, Cummings and their ilk are trying o deprive us of this almost universally accepted safeguard.

  • A treason trial should be held asap since all those on the red bus misled the British people that Brexit would save money, be easy and leave the UK better off.

    A market trader would already be in prison for less than Boris did in 2016.

  • Incredible what the Cummings spin machine comes up with. Today the Government’s own report on widespread shortages and chaos after a No Deal Brexit gets dismissed as a scaremongering by one of the ministers responsible for it. This is like Raab rubbishing the Withdrawal Agreement he helped negotiate!
    They must think members of the public are incredibly stupid.

  • And today we hear from the same mouth that the Backstop is not only undemoctratic, but also ‘threatens the Good Friday agreement’.

    We really are in a 1984 world where the truth is turned upside down. All it needs to complete the picture is a state broadcaster that repeats these lies unchallenged……oh, hang on….

  • In a recent fascinating article in ‘The Spectator USA’ (August 22, 2019), Iceland’s David Gunnlaugsson wrote, reassuringly for Britain, about his country’s withdrawal of its application for EU membership under his premiership. He argued that Britain could benefit hugely, as Iceland had done, from being a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), which facilitates free trade with the EU. He recommended temporary membership for Britain, citing some of the advantages as follows.
    “In becoming a member of the EEA, the UK would be joining a system that is already tried and tested. There could be a smooth transition, with no need for a frantic attempt to create a complicated new mechanism in a matter of weeks. Citizens’ rights would be guaranteed while a new framework is developed. And the same goes for trade in goods, services and capital.
    “What’s more, there would be no hard border in Ireland, just as there is no hard border between Sweden (EU) and Norway (EEA) or Germany (EU) and Switzerland (which has its own bilateral deal with the EU). Luckily, neither the UK nor the Republic of Ireland is a member of Schengen, so there are no problems on that front. And being out of Schengen will allow the UK to protect its other borders, as it does now.
    “Under the EEA, Britain would immediately be in full control of its fisheries — as Iceland is — and in a position to make its own arrangements for agriculture.”
    It all sounds marvellous, but that last sentence is contentious. It overlooks a weakness that also characterises another of the Brexiteers’ claims, namely that by entering a multitude of mini deals with the EU or its individual nations, deals that are in Britain’s and the EU’s mutual interests, a large proportion of the Brexit drawbacks to Britain can be overcome. No concession that Britain tries to negotiate with the EU post Brexit is likely to be won without a balancing concession conceded by Britain, and nowhere will this apply more than in the areas of fishing and agriculture.
    Gunnlaugsson also raises the question, “Will this solution be acceptable to the EU?” His answer is positive, but he does point out that the EEA was originally devised as a mechanism for easing the way for more European nations to join the EU. It may be questionable whether it can be useful means of damage limitation for easing us out, if – heaven forbid – Johnson should be successful in levering Britain out of the EU. In any case, it seems that Boris is hell bent on relying exclusively on WTO terms.