Government 'must propose its own Irish border backstop'

By agency reporter
June 6, 2018

The UK Government must propose its own version of the Irish border "backstop" in order for Brexit negotiations to proceed, argues a new report.

Published by the Institute for Government (IfG), The Irish Border after Brexit finds that despite the Government’s stated commitment to avoiding a hard border in Ireland, little progress has been made in finding a workable long-term solution. This will be a key issue at the forthcoming June 28–29 European Council.

The European Commission is pushing for a backstop which would, if no other solution can be found, keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s regulatory and customs regimes, thereby avoiding a hard border. But this would create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain, which the UK Government rejects.

The report says the Government must now set out its own proposal for a backstop ahead of the June Council. A UK-wide version of the backstop, in which certain EU rules areas apply to the whole country, would avoid a sea border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Agreeing a backstop would also save Whitehall and business the time and money they would otherwise have spent preparing for a ‘no deal’ scenario.

But the UK cannot let the backstop become the end of negotiations on the border. Instead, this backstop must incentivise both sides to negotiate something better for the long term.

Tim Durrant, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Government, said: “It is clear now that when it comes to the Irish border, the backstop must be resolved first. In time it might be possible to find a solution that brings us closer to the Government’s preferred options, but the clock is ticking. Not only does this matter for the island of Ireland, but this matters for the whole of the UK.”

Alex Stojanovic, Researcher at the Institute for Government, said: “The Government has begun to outline how it thinks customs and regulation could work in the future, but the current lack of detail means that the existing proposals do not provide the basis for avoiding a hard border in the island of Ireland. By proposing a backstop, the UK can take the initiative in the negotiations and secure more time to work out the detail of its proposal for the future.”

* Read The Irish border after Brexit here

* Institute for Government


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