Lack of legal clarity from the British with respect to the backstop

21 September 2018

Speaking in response to UK Prime Minister May’s call for detailed, written counter-proposals from the EU, Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin said: “The UK and EU agreed on a joint declaration in relation to the Irish border backstop in December 2017.

“When the EU Barnier team spelled out that declaration in clear legal language, it was subsequently rejected by the UK Government. However, we have not seen any alternative British formulation of a solution to the dilemma of how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland while also respecting the UK’s decision to leave the EU single market and customs union.

“Put simply, the British signed up to the backstop but then rejected the EU legal text without ever producing one of their own.

“People from all communities want to be able to continue with the current situation in Northern Ireland where there is no impediment to visiting friends or relatives, or going shopping or using services, on either side of the border.

“But when the UK leaves the EU, the legal framework that permits this level of seamless movement and open trade will be gone, and the whole purpose of the backstop agreement is to make sure that an alternative legal agreement is ready to replace the European law that we currently share.

“While the British Prime Minister called today for a detailed counter-proposal to her rejected Chequers proposal on customs, there has been a lack of legal clarity from the British side with respect to the backstop agreement which they summarily rejected months ago.

“In order to help move the negotiation process forward, it would be timely for the British themselves to now provide their own detailed legal wording about how the open border can be preserved.”

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