Back­stop, and why it’s big stick­ing point

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS | POLITICS -

THE North­ern Ire­land ‘back­stop’ has emerged as the main stum­bling block in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Q What is the back­stop?

A The back­stop is in­tended to be a tem­po­rary ar­range­ment to en­sure there is no re­turn of a hard bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic af­ter the United King­dom leaves the Euro­pean Union in March 2019 while the two sides ne­go­ti­ate a free trade agree­ment.

Q Why is it needed?

A The EU says the UK’s de­ci­sion to leave the sin­gle mar­ket and the cus­toms union means that un­til there is a trade deal, checks on goods cross­ing to and from the UK will be nec­es­sary in or­der to pre­vent ex­porters cir­cum­vent­ing EU tar­iffs and cus­toms con­trols.

Q So how would it work?

A Un­der the EU plan, North­ern Ire­land would ef­fec­tively re­main part of the sin­gle mar­ket and the cus­toms union — and sub­ject to their rules — un­til a free trade agree­ment is in place. How­ever, that would mean checks on goods mov­ing be­tween North­ern Ire­land and Bri­tian.

Q What is the UK’s re­sponse?

A Theresa May has said any ar­range­ment which ef­fec­tively draws a “bor­der in the Ir­ish Sea” be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the rest of the UK is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able.

In­stead, she wants to keep the whole of the UK aligned with the EU while a free trade deal is ne­go­ti­ated.

Q So what is the stick­ing point?

A The Bri­tish say any such deal should be strictly time-limited — oth­er­wise the UK could find it­self tied to the EU in­def­i­nitely, with no as­sur­ance it would ever get a trade deal. How­ever, the EU says that would un­der­mine the whole prin­ci­ple of the back­stop as there would be no guar­an­tee

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