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Henry Newman @HenryNewman
, 15 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
A thread 👇 on the backstop which highlights the absurdity of the current impasse.

Plus a thought experiment which shows how the EU might accidentally give the UK a goods-only Single Market because of the backstop - precisely what they dismissed at Salzburg 🤯
1/ It’s often argued that Northern Ireland was barely discussed during the 2016 referendum. Well, we are certainly making up for that now. The backstop is 1 & only issue blocking an orderly Brexit. Unless a way through can be found, we may be at No Deal.
2/ When the EU agreed to the concept of a backstop back in December it took a risk, as a senior European Commission source confirmed to me later. It was breaking its “no cherry picking” approach.
3/ While the EU had consistently argued that the UK couldn’t stay in part of the Single Market, it was now arguing that part of the UK must stay in part of the Single Market (unless other solutions could be found).
4/ The wider risk was that a specific Northern Ireland arrangement could accidentally determine the overall UK-EU relationship. The EU demanded that the UK ‘resolve' the border issue, without being able to agree the nature of its future relationship.
5/ Brussels has also sidestepped the aspects of the December Joint Report which it didn’t like - such as commitment that the UK was leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, or to no new regulatory checks for Northern Ireland without consent from devolved institutions.
6/ Let’s consider a thought experiment: say, both sides agree a UK-wide customs union after Brexit. Imagine EU gives the UK a break clause on that customs union, in return for agreement that N Ireland aligns with EU rules on goods as part of backstop (& other rules on energy etc)
7/ Given there’s no political support for dividing N Ireland in regulatory terms, suppose Parliament agrees all UK will follow EU goodss rules, until wider agreement can be found. That way although there will be checks on goods, regulations either side of Irish Sea are identical
8/ So, in this thought experiment, let’s imagine a widget made in England is shipped to Belfast. During passage which takes about 1/2 day, ladies & gentleman from Whitehall, supervised by clipboard-carrying Brussels bureaucrats, check for compliance with EU rules.
9/ By definition those checks are passed because identical rules apply. On arrival in Belfast the goods are driven straight to Dublin. They aren’t stopped on the way because - as is literally the point of the backstop - there are no Irish border checks.
10/ The widget can then be sold in any EU country without further checks, useful perhaps if French border was clogged. So in this thought experiment, EU would have given the UK something like a goods-only relationship with the Single Market, exactly what it rejected at Salzburg.
11/ What would EU do if UK scrapped, say, employment & environmental regulations, destabilising so-called level playing field, but continued to export this way? I use this whole thought experiment not because I think it will happen but to illustrate ridiculousness of this impasse
12/ I understand passionate desires on both sides to prevent return to hard borders of past. But the insistence of EU27 on solving this problem in isolation from wider solution is jeopardising the entire negotiations, as well as casting a cloud over bilateral UK-Irish relations
13/ President Tusk was right to describe the backstop as a Gordian knot. But he should know that problem was resolved by Alexander the Great slashing the knot, not unpicking the mess that had been created.
14/ The negotiators should step back & remember what they are actually trying to achieve: the avoidance of a hard border.

Read the original piece here 👇…
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