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UK and EU agree on Brexit 'backstop' solution for the Irish border

According to the draft treaty agreed for the ‘ordered withdrawal’ of the UK from the EU, the backstop will apply unless or until another solution is found.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney met with Michel Barnier earlier today.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney met with Michel Barnier earlier today.
Image: Twitter

BRITAIN AND THE European Union have reached a landmark deal on transition arrangements that will last for nearly two years after the Brexit divorce next year.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier told a press conference in Brussels after negotiations with his British counterpart David Davis: ”We have reached an agreement on the transition period.

“The transition will be of limited duration.”

Backstop

As part of the withdrawal text (which can be read here), Britain and the EU agreed on the so-called ‘backstop’ solution for the Irish border – unless or until another solution is found.

PastedImage-25654 Source: European Commission

Under this option, Northern Ireland will remain in “full alignment” with the EU’s single market and customs union in order to uphold the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The backstop would, most significantly, see a commitment to no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The UK had already assured that there would not be a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit – it just hadn’t come up with a solution for leaving the single market and customs union but not having border checks.

The backstop option would mean alignment between the north and south for customs, VAT, energy, regulations for the protection of the environment and laws governing agriculture and fisheries. Northern Ireland would also have to adhere to EU rules on State Aid and would be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in those aforementioned areas.

The backstop agreement was known as ‘Option C’ with regard to the Northern Irish border – one of three options laid out in the Joint Report agreed by the UK and the EU in December.

It was not an option DUP leader Arlene Foster was happy with at the time:

At today’s press conference, the EU’s Brexit negotiator David Davis said that the UK and EU are committed to the draft report in keeping with the commitment to include a legal text detailing the solutions for the border in the north.

“But it remains our interest to achieve a partnership that is so close so as not to require specific measures for Northern Ireland,” he said, reiterating the need to avoid a hard border but to include some elements of the common travel area.

“The UK government remains steadfast in its commitment to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic,” he said, mentioning this tweet from Simon Coveney earlier today:

“While there is as yet no agreement on the right … approach we know what we need to do and we are going to get on with it,” said Davis.

He said the government is confident that “a good deal for the UK and EU is closer than ever before”.

The new text of the withdrawal agreement produced by both sides says the transition will last from the day Britain leaves on March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020.

“During that period, the United Kingdom will no longer participate in the European Union decision making process, because after that date it will no longer be a member of the EU,” Barnier said.

Nevertheless it will preserve the benefits, the advantages of the single market and the customs union… and will therefore be required to respect all the European rules just like all member states do.

Davis told the news conference that the transition deal “gives the certainty demanded by businesses and citizens across Britain and the European Union.”

- Additional reporting © AFP, 2018

Read: Ireland up against Germany and Netherlands to win over UK-based TV channels after Brexit>

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