UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has once again called for alternatives to the backstop - but what form could these take?
A report has previously set out ‘alternative arrangements’ to the Brexit backstop - including the formation of a new single zone for food standards
The ‘Alternative Arrangements Commission’ (AAC) claimed to have found a combination of measures that would help avoid a hard border in Ireland.
The group, which is chaired by senior Tories, says the new way of facilitating cross-country trade would be expensive but would also protect the Good Friday Agreement.
Among the more controversial elements of the plan is that Britain and Ireland form a single zone for food standards. It suggests that rules in the zone would remain closely aligned with the EU.
In their interim report the AAC recommended:
• Investigating the possibility of creating special economic zones to cover the border;
• Creating a multi-tier trusted trader programme for large and medium-sized companies, with exemptions for the smallest firms;
• Using mobile units to carry out sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks - covering food safety and plant and animal health - away from the border;
• And drafting an alternative arrangements protocol which could be inserted into either the Withdrawal Agreement or used in any other Brexit outcome.
It has been suggested that if the British and Irish government began work on the project soon then it would be possible to put a 2022 time limit on the backstop.
However, the Government has repeatedly ruled out the idea of an end date for the backstop on the grounds that it must be in place until a workable alternative is up and running. This position has been backed up by other EU countries.
The commission was chaired by Conservative MPs Nicky Morgan and Greg Hands.
Speaking in June Mrs Morgan said: “The commission has met its three conditions: to uphold the vital Belfast-Good Friday Agreement; to harness existing technologies and customs best practice, not any futuristic high-tech unicorns; and to be compatible with any of the possible Brexit outcomes, including the existing Withdrawal Agreement.
“A successful agreement and roll-out of alternative arrangements would supersede the need for the backstop.”
The report says “sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS)” tests could be carried out by mobile units away from the border.
However, the DUP, which underpins the Tory government through a confidence-and-supply deal, is opposed to checks on farms and in food-production plants.
The idea of a multi-tier trusted trader programme for large and small companies was previously proposed by the UK in August 2017 and dismissed by the EU.