"Most significantly the protocol lays out “backstop” arrangements for the Irish border that ensure the free circulation of goods across the island of Ireland. These would remain in place unless and until a separate EU-UK agreement replaces them."
2/6 "provisions bind NI to EU’s customs code & single market rules, with checks on some trade with GB at ports and in marketplace. HMG also makes unilateral promises to minimise divergence with NI by adhering to EU single market rules for goods, keeping open flow of trade to GB"
"The backstop plan for Northern Ireland is underpinned by a UK-EU customs union. This avoids the need for customs checks across the Irish Sea, one of Prime Minister Theresa May’s most important red lines."
In addition, I would like to add in some tweets below, a much longer poem by Seamus Heaney about Francis Ledwidge, which captures very well the complicated history of Ireland’s involvement in World War One.
Today I would like to remember Francis Ledwidge, a fellow Meath man whose poetry we learned at school. Francis was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele, on 31 July 1917, aged 29. #Armistice100
In 2 tweets below is my favourite poem of his: Lament for Thomas McDonagh
He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds,
Above the wailing of the rain.
Nor shall he know when loud March blows
Thro' slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
Blowing to flame the golden cup
Of many an upset daffodil.
But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor
And pastures poor with greedy weeds
Perhaps he'll hear her low at morn
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.
“Baker claimed signing up to it [the backstop] – a decision that took place when he was a minister in the Department for Exiting the EU – had been used by Downing Street as a ploy to secure a softer Brexit.”
“Baker said that he and his pro-leave colleagues would focus their attention on the declaration. “Conservative MPs expect to get some commitment for the money. The overwhelming attitude of Conservative MPs is that paying £39bn for nothing is totally unacceptable,” he said”
“But Baker said few would be convinced. If the deal is voted down, he predicted there would be a moment of “profound political crisis”, during which Eurosceptic Tory MPs would be able to shift the government’s negotiating stance towards a looser future relationship with the EU.”
“A Northern Ireland-specific backstop –a guarantee to avoid a hard border even if future trade talks fail- would effectively give way to one that would apply across the entirety of Britain for customs only” irishtimes.com/news/ireland/i…
With NI safeguards:
“However, the withdrawal agreement would also contain additional measures that would apply on the Irish Border. These are understood to include some extra customs rules as well as rules to ensure the North’s regulations remain in alignment with EU standards”
Obviously, one cannot judge properly without reading detail. But I have long argued that a UK-wide component would be necessary.
If this is able to work, in an “all-weather” legally watertight way, why not? Overall it would be in Ireland’s interest too - *if* other EU26 agree.
2/ “...agreement would still include a Northern Ireland-specific backstop that would require compliance with the full EU customs code and regulations on goods and agri-food products. The UK-wide version would see Britain applying same tariffs as EU on imports from outside Europe”
“The proposal would mean that there would be no customs barrier in the Irish Sea, remaining within the red line restated by May’s official spokeswoman on Friday that Northern Ireland must not be in a separate customs territory to the rest of the UK.”
“Unfortunately, its [Brexit] most severe impact could well be felt on this island.
That is why protecting the peace process and the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain are priority objectives for the Government.”
Kenny, Feb 2017:
“For many in the North...deep concern at prospect of being removed from EU....not just there was a strong “remain” majority of over 55% in the North. Fewer than 350,000 people voted for Brexit in Northern Ireland, out of a total population of over 1.8 million.”
.@alexmassie: “When Davis’s officials send emails to Irish asking for a meeting with ‘Kenny’..can’t quite be sure whether this is demonstration of rudeness (meeting would be with ‘the Taoiseach’) or ignorance (then-Taoiseach’s forename is Enda). Either way, it seems like a fail.”
A quote from @alexmassie excellent analysis last November no less:
According to @Europol, of 205 terrorist attacks (foiled, failed and completed) in EU member-states during 2017, fully 88 were “security-related incidents in Northern Ireland, of which 58 were shooting and 30 were bombing incidents.” See here for more: europol.europa.eu/activities-ser…
“Ethno-nationalist and separatist” groups accounted for 137 attacks in all, by far the biggest category, with Northern Ireland suffering most of those (88), double France (42), and over ten times Spain (7). Next came jihadist terrorist attacks (33), and left-wing terrorism (24).
These statistics might help explain the recent (rather exasperated) comments of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, in an interview with the Times of London, some quotes in thread below:
“The fix opens the possibility that Britain would end up bound indefinitely to the European Union’s customs rules. While that’s something that the EU and many businesses want, it risks detonating a crisis in May’s government that could even bring her down” bloomberg.com/news/articles/…
“May accepts EU’s point that it must be open-ended, for an "enduring" solution..proposal is for whole UK to stay tied to EU customs rules as a so-called backstop -- or guarantee clause. There would also be some new checks on goods between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain”
“Merkel has called for more flexibility from both the EU and the UK to unblock Brexit negotiations, warning that too rigid an approach could risk leaving Northern Ireland without any other option than a hard border” ft.com/content/3812b9…
2/ “At an EU summit dinner and in later public remarks, the German chancellor expressed concerns about the bloc’s stand-off with the UK over the Irish “backstop”, a fallback measure intended to ensure no hard border divides Ireland if other solutions fail. “
3/ “Three diplomats said that at the Wednesday night dinner Ms Merkel indicated that the EU and the Republic of Ireland should rethink their approach on Northern Ireland to avoid a fundamental clash with London.”
2) David is right that the "backstop" as a mechanism -afaik- emerged sometime following the hold-up of "sufficient progress" at October 2017 EU summit. The reason for that hold-up was because the EU felt HMG was not paying enough attention to withdrawal priority of protecting GFA
3) And David is right that the backstop is a means to that end prioritised by the EU. As he says: "The UK has agreed to this backstop and should not complain now." But then comes the crux of the issue, does the objective of an "orderly Brexit" override that of having a backstop?
Hence the need for an indefinite legal commitment, aka the backstop.
What might be possible, is a commitment to rigorously review border arrangements and new technologies on/at a specific date, say during 2021 if the transition period is extended beyond 2020 (which currently seems likely).
But am not sure why or how EU can move further on this.
"The British government has all its priorities wrong. Future trade agreements with countries outside the EU will be neither as immediate nor as beneficial to the UK as maintaining peace and good relations with Ireland."
"time for Conservative party to return to being conservative and conserve the peace it helped build in Ireland. Tories should recall that without John Major’s negotiation of Downing Street Declaration in 1993, there would have been no peace agreement 5 years later"
Then you may not be aware that in March 1993 a HMG rep told IRA contact: “Any settlement not involving all people north and south won’t work...that won’t frighten Unionists. The final solution is union...The historical train -Europe- determines that. We are committed to Europe.”
This will not happen as backstop is mainly NI-specific to protect GFA. The UK as a whole cannot have a UK-wide backstop unless it signs up to “Norway+Customs” (at least). But that would remove the incentive to do a future trade deal, so anathema to many - if not all - Brexiteers.
No one can blame Nicola Sturgeon for proposing the same treatment for Scotland. It either helps limit the economic damage of Brexit by pushing HMG towards a “soft” Brexit, or -more likely- helps bolster the case for Scottish independence in the event of a London-led “hard” Brexit
Not forgetting that in some ways a soft Brexit would also help the case for Scottish independence - even more than a hard Brexit in some ways - maintain open trade with England and Wales, while winning a seat at the EU table.
Key quotes from MEP on EP Brexit steering group, synopsises EU position:
“The EU’s current backstop proposal contains the minimum level of controls necessary to protect the integrity of single market and some precise procedures related to customs, fiscal and regulatory control.”
“Some of these procedures have been used for years between Spain and the Canary Islands (which are outside the EU customs territory), and have nothing to do with potential emergence of a new border in the Irish Sea.”
“Maybe more political talks are needed – perhaps language can be changed...the Commission’s most recent conversation with UK Brexit Secretary was by phone instead of in person. Let us hope this is not a new trend for the remaining phase of the withdrawal negotiations”
That should say “she worried the then-EEC” of course not EU, since it didn’t exist in 1988 :-)
In other words, I was already long-well disposed to @davidallengreen’s analysis of Thatcher’s Bruges speech. I think he is spot-on here, an excellent piece, and crucial for understanding the nuances and strands of British “euroscepticism”:
NI-GB: “Of the four most relevant types of checks – on customs, standards, VAT, SPS – only the last, for which infrastructure already partially exists, explicitly needs to be carried out in ports rather than online, in distribution centres or on ferries.” cer.eu/insights/after…
“Other nations manage similar arrangements with little fuss: the Canary Islands are outside the EU’s VAT area, despite being a constituent region of Spain, which necessitates checks. Indeed, having a foot in both camps could be to Northern Ireland’s economic advantage...”
“While the withdrawal agreement will probably only bind both sides to a Northern Ireland-specific backstop, it could allow for whole UK solutions, that would be conditional – and this is important – on the future, post-withdrawal, consent of both the UK and EU.”
1/3 A crude backstop hunch: legal text will have two components (UK-wide CU, NI-only SM). Perhaps how “temporary” UK part is, and how “permanent” NI part is, can be spun politically - but both will be legally bound together, so legal result will be same if/when backstop kicks in.
2/3 That offers a political way out, so that May can claim a “concession”, but I think the EU might go for that if certain conditions are met on oversight, court, VAT etc, which is still politically difficult for May, but perhaps can be overcome with fact of finally having a deal
3/3 The backstop might have to kick in as soon as the start of 2021, after the transition period. So it would not be wise to fudge this legally at all. That is another reason why the EU won’t go for legal fudge. Thus, a lot now hinges on the UK’s alternative backstop text...
Also David Davis made some confusing comments, to me at least, in Berlin this week, about the need for checks at Northern Irish ports, but technology could be used away from the land border too, and that there would be no hard land border:
1/2 Seems to be potential inconsistency in para 50 of the December JR:
“UK will ensure no new regulatory barriers develop between NI and rest of UK, *unless*, consistent with 1998 Agreement, the NI Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for NI”
2/2 But then this, which is potentially inconsistent with section above?
“In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland's businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.”