A recent “backstop” proposal by the British Government would keep the UK in the EU customs union until a solution has been brokered about the Irish border to avoid a potential return to hostilities in the north of Ireland.
The fear by both British and Irish politicians is that a hard border as a result of non-aligned customs regulations would see a resurgence in anti-British sentiment among border communities. However, politicians have not found a permanent solution that would allow for a porous boundary amid the possibility for goods and migrants to sneak into the UK.
A proposed special status for Northern Ireland in the EU customs union has been proposed by nationalists, but dismissed by unionists who see the move to create a customs border through the Irish sea as abandonment by the British Government. Despite this, many unionists would also not like to see a hard border.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says Brexit backstop agreement cannot be time-limited by a date pic.twitter.com/D7rZlw6p0X— RTÉ News (@rtenews) June 7, 2018
According to Reuters, May’s proposal is seen by the EU as hopeless since they see no way in which Northern Ireland could be kept out of EU regulations without a border. There is essentially an ultimatum: May either concedes to a ‘soft’ Brexit by maintaining EU customs rules or risks instability at the border by fully leaving the EU.
The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) in the north sees any form of economic alignment with the EU solely for Northern Ireland as an attempt by the British and Irish governments for the latter to “annex” the north. If May seeks to maintain her coalition, she cannot allow the north to have special economic status and create a border down the Irish sea.
Difficult to see how UK proposal on customs aspects of IE/NI backstop will deliver a workable solution to avoid a hard border & respect integrity of the SM/CU. A backstop that is temporary is not a backstop, unless the definitive arrangement is the same as the backstop. #Brexit— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) June 7, 2018
The official proposal document states: “The UK expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest. There are a range of options for how a time limit could be delivered, which the UK will propose and discuss with the EU.”
While this plan works in the meantime, it is only half of a solution in that it only prolongs the uncertainty of the north in relation to the south of Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Do you believe this is the right step until a real solution is found?