Tuesday 17 September 2019

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has once again called for alternatives to the backstop - but what form could these take?

A mock customs post is put up by Border Communities Against Brexit protesters on Old Belfast Road in Carrickcarnon Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A mock customs post is put up by Border Communities Against Brexit protesters on Old Belfast Road in Carrickcarnon Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Nicky Morgan (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

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.

READ MORE: 'The UK wants swift deal, but backstop must go' - Boris Johnson tells Angela Merkel in Berlin

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.

Nicky Morgan (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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.

READ MORE: 'I'd hate to let Brexit force me out of where I've chosen to make my life and career' - Irish people in UK revisited ahead of looming no-deal

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.

READ MORE: Phil Hogan launches scathing attack on Boris Johnson: 'Unelected PM... gambling with the peace process'

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