United Kingdom can not have 'unilateral' power in ending Brexit backstop

Pauline Gross
November 6, 2018

Mrs May has reportedly secured concessions from the European Union to avoid a hard border in Ireland, the Sunday Times reports.

Mr Varadkar told the Irish state broadcaster RT: "Brexit has undermined the Good Friday Agreement and is fraying the relationship between Britain and Ireland".

In a hastily-arranged phone call yesterday, Irish PM Leo Varadkar told Mrs May he would consider a "review" mechanism for the backstop - but he said the United Kingdom would not be allowed to scrap it unilaterally.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: "The Taoiseach indicated an openness to consider proposals for a review, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop".

"In order to ensure that the backstop, if ever needed, would be temporary, the Prime Minister said that there would need to be a mechanism through which the backstop could be brought to an end". He said such a time limit on the backstop "isn't worth the paper it's written on".

The backstop sets out what will happen to the Irish border if the Brexit transition ends before a final UK-EU trade deal is in place.

An open frontier is seen as crucial to preserving the 1998 Good Friday peace accord that ended decades of Irish sectarian bloodshed.

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Brussels had initially demanded that Northern Ireland stays within its jurisdiction for customs and most single market rules to avoid a hard border.

"If the long term is that we are simply going to be continuing this argument long after we've left the European Union on March 29 next year as to what our future relationship with it is going to be, then, quite frankly, it would be better to have that argument now and let the public decide what they want and if they are content with the arrangements the government has come up with".

Theresa May will be able to persuade her Cabinet to support her preferred Brexit deal - but only after more of her ministers resign, according to a government source. In the 2016 referendum, Britons voted 52-48 per cent in favour of Brexit.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, a leading member of the European Research Group of hardline Tory MPs, said that EU withdrawal must mean departure from the customs union "in a timely way". Coveney was later quoted as saying a "middle-ground position" on the backstop arrangement could be found, but added it must be legally watertight.

The EU has to date rejected a temporary customs union.

Insisting that negotiations are "ongoing" at a technical level, the Commission's chief spokesman summed up progress by telling reporters: "Not there yet".

Mr Raab is understood to be furious that David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister and Mrs May's de facto deputy, visited Dublin last week where he rubbished a new proposal that had been put to the Irish by Mr Raab just three days earlier.

Other reports by GizPress

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