A few comments on an excellent Twitter thread by Peter Foster regarding Brexit and the Irish backstop issue.
Olly Robbins is in Brussels today for more #Brexit talks.— Peter Foster (@pmdfoster) July 25, 2018
Top of the agenda is the 'insoluble' Irish backstop issue - but how 'insoluble' it really? Is there a way through?
Maybe. Some thoughts after chats with both sides. 1/Thread https://t.co/GQiMPfn5TB
Firstly, the Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph seems to be very well informed — so, it is best to read carefully what he says in his thread.
The backstop is the key conundrum. Best to assume this is a sine qua non for the Withdrawal Agreement.
My view is that the ‘legal’ issue with respect to the Withdrawal Agreement against the political declaration for an all UK backstop is meant to be solvable.
The main issue is meant to be the substance of the backstop rather than its legal form (pace lawyers). Let’s begin by assuming it ends up being an all UK backstop.
The thorniest issue is that it is very likely indeed to be operative. No one credible seems to think that the required Free Trade Agreement will be in place by December 2020.
So, we have to assume (and this would be prudent, anyway!) that there will be an interim phase between the transition period and the end state.
Then, the question is what does the interim phase looks like. It seems to me to be overly complex and quite possibly un-negotiable (cherry picking, etc.) to have a bespoke ‘half in, half out’ or a structure extant for an indeterminate period of time.
Put differently, if virtually no one thinks the transition is currently long enough for a new Free Trade Agreement, why should it be long enough for a bespoke ‘all UK backstop’?
Following that logic, you end up with a backstop that looks rather like the current situation. This is the same thinking that prevailed for the transition period — too complicated, difficult, etc. to come up with anything bespoke.
What ‘all UK backstop’ (that is very likely to be operative) looks like the current situation? Well... the transition period!
So, then, returning to Peter Foster’s excellent thread, you have a ‘2-part backstop’. The backstop as is (pretty much) in the Withdrawal Agreement and a conditional transition extension option wherever appropriate in the documentation.
Is this politically unpalatable? Oh yes! Is it unacceptable? It depends on the alternatives, and, if you assume that the transition is going to need to be extended anyway, why not tie in the backstop?
No deal is, of course, the final resort. But do we really, really think a UK government is going to chart that course with all its terrible consequences?
TL;DR - Tough times ahead.🔷
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)