Expert View

5 things we’ve learnt from the Irish backstop saga

by David Hannay | 08.06.2018

The latest round in the Brexit negotiations saga really is enough to make you weep. What conclusions can one draw from the “agreement “ reached between Theresa May and David Davis on the “Irish backstop” paper which will now apparently be fed into the hopper in Brussels?

– First that the government is still negotiating with itself rather than with the EU 27 who have to agree to any solution;

– Second that the government has not yet faced up to the inbuilt contradictions between the backstop text it agreed to last December and its determination to leave the customs union and the Single Market;

– Third that, yet again, all they have done is to kick the can down the road, this time only a very little way down the road, since it is highly unlikely that this proposal will survive beyond the European Council meeting on 29 June;

– Fourth that yet more precious time has been wasted in failing to get to grips with the big issues of U.K./EU trade, security, foreign policy cooperation, research and innovation, regulatory management and a whole raft of other issues crucial to the future wellbeing of our economy;

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– Fifth that the government, and thus the country, is having to pay dearly for that initial error in triggering Article 50 in haste, without a coherent post- Brexit game plan and without having first agreed with the EU 27 a sensible approach to the sequencing of the negotiations.

So, what will happen next? Presumably the EU 27 will say politely but firmly that adding an extra year onto the already inadequate transitional period will not guarantee a smooth transition to whatever end-state arrangements are then to be put in place; that it does not therefore constitute the fail- safe backstop that the Irish government and anyone who minds seriously about the possible consequences of Brexit for the Good Friday Agreement is seeking; and that an end 2021 limit on the backstop will have to be dropped if there is to be an agreement.

What will the U.K. government do then? Face up to the prospect of losing some Brexiteer Ministers if they agree? Or simply soldier on in deadlock with time and negotiating goodwill being frittered away? The choice will be the one they faced, and funked, this week.

Edited by Rachel Franklin

One Response to “5 things we’ve learnt from the Irish backstop saga”

  • How would politics work if the decision makers were held personally responsible for their reckless behavior? Boris would not find his garden bridge so ho hum if he had to pay for the money lost on it and that the public must pay for. If they could not pay they could go to prison. The Tories will have fond memories of the days when lay about debtors were simply tossed into jail. Those were the good old days.