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Posts Tagged ‘Irish Backstop’

The Irish Backstop Would Undermine The Good Friday Agreement. But Not In The Way You Think!

Posted by DeadAnarchistPhil on January 31, 2019

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

You have probably heard for the last twelve months about the ‘Irish Backstop‘ during the Brexit negotiations. It is essentially a guarantee by the UK Government that there will be no return of a ‘hard’ border (One with check points) between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, less this would cause friction between the Unionist and Republican communities at the least or contravene the Good Friday Agreement altogether.

It was one of the ‘Red Lines’ laid down by UK Prime minister Theresa May and the EU, a red line that has been thoroughly exploited by the European Union, the Irish Republic and remain voters alike. So much so that it has become the focal point during negotiations and the discussion and debate of it in both houses of the UK Parliament frequently.

I am not saying there is nothing to worry about as Unionist and Republican terrorist groups would take any opportunity to start a campaign against each other and the public too. There is a very real danger violence could start once again. However, the way the UK Government has used it as a ‘red line’ and make some kind of bargaining tool later on, is disgusting. Also the way the EU and the Irish Republic have also used it to give the UK a bloody nose in negotiations, has also been equally disgusting.

With the fear of violence being used as political leverage, the UK accepted the backstop, this would then in theory guarantee no hard border on the island of Ireland as there would be a ‘customs Union’ providing frictionless trade. The issue with this is that the UK would be stuck in a supposed ‘temporary’ customs union with the EU until it could provide an answer to the border question in Ireland, an answer that is possibly going to take a long time to find. So if the UK leaves the temporary customs union after the UK economy has transitioned from the EU (but not created a new trade deal, as that probably wouldn’t happen either until the UK has answered the border question), then it could be seen as the UK breaking the Good Friday Agreement.

However, this week one of the UK politicians who worked on the Good Friday Deal, Paul Bew, has said that even entering in to the backstop is a breach of the agreement. You can read his piece here. He basically says that because the ‘Withdrawal Agreement‘ (which would contain the temp customs union) would involve handing power over to the institutions of the EU, giving them power over North and Southern Ireland, would contravenes the Good Friday Agreement, as

“… regulations, previously within the disposal of the parties to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement within Northern Ireland, would be handed to agencies outside their control...”

He continued “The startling effect of this would be that a Good Friday Agreement – created in 1998 to ensure bottom-up consent – would now be replaced by a top-down arrangement. This would not protect the Good Friday Agreement but subvert it.

Mr. Bew also warned that “The suspicion will be aroused among them [The Unionist population] that the Republic of Ireland will have, under the Backstop, a greater directive power over Northern Ireland affairs. It will take politics in Northern Ireland beyond the legitimacy of the model agreed in 1998.

However, this doesn’t mean there is no solution, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, Bew says

In the interests of protecting the Good Friday Agreement, any Backstop arrangements which might be agreed primarily to protect the economy of the Irish Republic in a context of crisis can only be temporary. In short, the obligations of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – which the backstop claims to protect – require that it can only be a temporary arrangement and this must be put in explicit, legally binding terms.

So, in short the backstop has to have a time limit written into it that all sides agree to, or it breaks the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Though with the current political fudging, feet dragging and unwillingness to discuss the issue properly, I cannot see this happening.

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