Raab demand on Brexit backstop

Frederick Owens
November 5, 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May has reportedly secured a series of "secret" concessions from the European Union that could allow the whole of the United Kingdom to effectively remain within a customs union with the bloc after Brexit.

The backstop plan enraged the DUP, which is propping up May's Conservative government at Westminster, and the PM has since said she could "not accept" any deal that would require a customs border between the North and Great Britain.

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".

But only providing "that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop". "He recalled the prior commitments made that the backstop must apply "unless and until" alternative arrangements are agreed".

Downing Street officials misled ministers at the time.

He said that an all-UK customs union would not breach the EU's red lines.

Raab's plan would give the United Kingdom the right to ask for a "review mechanism" within three or six months of the so-called backstop taking effect, to allow it to continue only by mutual consent, the Financial Times reported early today.

"While we too hope the Northern Ireland backstop will never be required to be used, it will be required to be written down in legal text".

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The Irish border has proved the biggest obstacle to a deal, with both sides vowing not to reinstate a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland for fear of destabilizing a peace accord that ended decades of deadly sectarian violence.

The report claims an "all-UK customs deal" will be written into the legally binding withdrawal agreement, which would do away with the need for the controversial "backstop" arrangement agreed by the United Kingdom last December, which would see Northern Ireland remain in full alignment with the EU's single market and customs union rules in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But the government's Brexit department stated that they are confident there will be a deal that works for businesses - and reiterated their stance against a People's Vote.

United Kingdom officials, however, suggested a summit could be a called with a week's notice, and were indicating that they believed one could be held in the week beginning 26 November, just before May and other leaders fly out on 29 November for the G20 in Argentina.

Insisting that the United Kingdom should "junk" any solution keeping it in the EU's customs union, he said: "Brexit was meant to be about taking back control".

Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said: "The Irish position remains consistent and v clear? that a "time-limited backstop" or a backstop that could be ended by United Kingdom unilaterally would never be agreed to by IRE or EU. These ideas are not backstops at all + don't deliver on previous United Kingdom commitments".

And EU deputy chief Brexit negotiator Sabine Weyand backed Ireland when it warned that a time-limited backstop on the Irish border would never be acceptable.

Britain wants instead to keep the whole U.K.in an EU customs union, but only temporarily.

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