Sunday 22 September 2019

Nigel Dodds: 'Why I see the backstop as a threat to the future of North'


'No backstop means a Border'. Stock image
'No backstop means a Border'. Stock image

Nigel Dodds

Despite the evidence of mounting opposition to her deal, Theresa May has signed up to it without asking for a single change.

So we have ended up with the worst possible outcome. Leave voters are outraged at the betrayal of Brexit and Remain voters are asking what on earth is the point of losing all our say but still taking the EU's rules.

The political declaration, despite previous promises, does not set out a clear future relationship and raises significant issues in its own right. And the Withdrawal Agreement is fatally and fundamentally flawed.

Hundreds of pages are devoted to the Irish backstop, which kicks in automatically after the transition period. It lasts unless and until the EU decides something else it prefers can replace it.

Back in December, we advised the UK prime minister not to sign up to the Joint Report but she went ahead. And the provisos she entered to safeguard Northern Ireland's position have been deleted. Where's the final say promised to Northern Ireland in paragraph 50, for instance?

The backstop puts Northern Ireland under swathes of EU laws with no say for anyone in Belfast or London. It creates a trade border down the Irish Sea.

Those who say this backstop is good for our economy or business need to consider the effect of the trade barriers and growing divergence that would inevitably emerge, some immediately, most in future years, between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK - our main market.

It forces the UK as a whole into a customs union and taking the rules of the EU with no right to leave and no end date.

Far from being an insurance policy unlikely ever to be used, it is the baseline for the EU.

The backstop gives enormous advantage and leverage to the EU in the next stage of the negotiations on the final trade relationship. Just imagine how those negotiations will end up if this is the evidence of how we do it so far.

We are heading under this deal for Brexit in name only or the break-up of the United Kingdom. The tragedy is that it is all so utterly unnecessary since everyone, including Dublin, Brussels and London, says they are not going to have a hard Border on the island of Ireland under any circumstances.

Project Fear will now be ramped up and negotiation fatigue will be exploited to try to force people into accepting what the PM always said she would resist: a bad deal.

We will be told by the EU that nothing can be changed - take it or leave it - until, of course, the moment they change it. We may even be told all sorts of assurances can be made in London. If it's not in the legally binding Withdrawal Treaty, that would be difficult.

So the UK parliament is being presented with a plan that locks us into an EU straitjacket and leaves us divided and diminished.

Our party wants a good deal for the UK, a deal that delivers upon the referendum result and a deal that ensures Northern Ireland leaves with the rest of the UK. But it is not this deal. It is not a deal at any price.

Nigel Dodds MP is deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Irish Independent

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