What is the backstop – and how could PM try to solve the conundrum?

Boris Johnson got here to workplace pledging to ditch the Irish border backstop – the controversial association in the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May that she failed to get handed by MPs.

Trying to type out Britain’s EU exit was the downfall of Mrs May, now Mr Johnson is battling to be sure that he doesn’t meet the similar destiny.

Having initially been bullish about scrapping the backstop, there was hypothesis that the prime minister could also be softening that place considerably.

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Johnson hopeful of Brexit deal by 18 October

Sky News takes a take a look at the totally different variations of the backstop which have been proposed – and why the idea itself has proved so contentious.

First issues first, what is the backstop?

The 2016 vote for Brexit has raised a mess of questions, not least about the future standing of the border between Northern Ireland – a part of the United Kingdom – and the Republic – an EU member.

Because of this new disparity between two international locations that share a land border, preparations for avoiding a return to a tough frontier (border posts and checkpoints) want to be agreed.

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The backstop is an insurance coverage coverage contained in the withdrawal settlement negotiated between Mrs May and the EU to keep away from a tough border.

The unique plan was for the withdrawal settlement to be handed by parliament and for Britain to enter right into a transition interval.

This is primarily a standstill interval, during which Britain would proceed to comply with EU guidelines and rules, with the intention being that this time can be utilized by authorities and companies to prepare for Brexit to take full impact.

In this era each side would negotiate the phrases of the future relationship between Britain and the EU.

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The hope was that, all being properly, these talks would have labored out a means of guaranteeing there is no want for a tough border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

If not, the backstop would kick in.

But issues haven’t gone in accordance to plan. Mrs May failed to get her deal by parliament and Brexit has been delayed twice.

Mr Johnson is now attempting to discover a means by the impasse – and tweaking the backstop moderately than eliminating it altogether has been instructed as a possible compromise.


This is the present model of the backstop that is in the withdrawal settlement.

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This would see the UK as an entire stay in a customs union with the EU, whereas Northern Ireland would comply with additional EU guidelines and rules so as to preserve the border frictionless.

Northern Ireland-only

In a growth that may go away seasoned Brexit observers feeling like they’re in Groundhog Day, this concept has cropped up as soon as extra.

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If it sounds acquainted, that is as a result of it is – the Northern Ireland-only backstop was initially proposed by the EU.

As its title implies, it will see Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union by itself, moderately than the UK as properly.

So why is the association so controversial?

The re-emergence of the Northern Ireland-only model is curious as a result of Mrs May rejected it again in 2017.

This was due to issues it will successfully create a border in the Irish Sea due to the want to test items passing between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

She pushed for a UK-huge model as a substitute, so as to keep away from this difficulty.

But both means, the Democratic Unionist Party and many Conservative MPs are opposed to the backstop.

They oppose it as a result of they worry it should weaken the constitutional integrity of the Union – as Northern Ireland can be handled in another way to the remainder of the UK by following totally different guidelines and rules.

The solely distinction between these two variations of the backstop is the diploma to which this might occur.

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Opponents have additionally expressed fears Britain could find yourself being trapped in the association – and by extension the EU – indefinitely in some sort of “Hotel California” situation – you possibly can try any time you want, however you possibly can by no means go away.

They would solely be glad by the full removing of the backstop.

And it must be famous that quite a few authorities figures have rejected the thought of pivoting again to a Northern Ireland-only backstop.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom advised Sky News: “There isn’t a plan to have some sort of NI-only anything.”

DUP chief Arlene Foster held talks with Mr Johnson in Downing Street on Tuesday.

She mentioned afterwards that the PM had “confirmed his rejection of the Northern Ireland-only backstop and his commitment to securing a deal which works for the entire United Kingdom as well as our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland”.

A 3rd means?

Given the staunch opposition to the backstop, alternate options have been put ahead and mooted.

According to Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan, the PM has instructed what he known as an “all-Ireland food zone”.

In layman’s phrases, this might imply agricultural items and livestock having the similar rules throughout the island of Ireland.

This would construct on checks already in place for livestock, however crucially wouldn’t cowl tariffs on items.

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Mr Hogan advised the Irish Times: “That is definitely a transparent indication of divergence between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the EU and the remainder of the UK.

“This is the first time that this has been spoken about by a British prime minister the place they’re ready to settle for some stage of divergence between Northern Ireland and the remainder of the UK.

“If we can build on that we certainly might get closer to one another in terms of a possible outcome.”

But this won’t fly with the EU, one thing that Mr Hogan hinted at in his interview.

“It would have to include all goods… in terms of any agreement,” he mentioned, including that he was hopeful “that the penny is finally dropping with the UK” on Brexit.

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