Expert View

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. 

10 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.