EU reacts coolly to Johnson’s demand to scrap Brexit backstop

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European Council President Donald Tusk
European Council President Donald Tusk

THE European Union (EU) on Tuesday stood by the so-called backstop, aimed at preserving an open border in Ireland after Brexit, after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded that the controversial measure be scrapped.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted this, after Johnson wrote to him on Monday

“The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found.

“Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it,” Tusk tweeted.

The backstop was designed by Brussels and London to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland.

It is a key bone of contention in Britain’s EU divorce deal.

Johnson, who became prime minister last month, insisted in his letter that the backstop cannot be part of the withdrawal deal, calling it “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK.”

By threatening to keep Britain inside the EU’s customs union, he said it is also “inconsistent” with the future relationship London wants with the bloc.

Instead, Johnson proposed replacing the backstop with a commitment to put in place much-discussed “alternative arrangements” to maintain an open border, without going into detail.

He acknowledged that these arrangements may not be fully in place by the end of the transitional post-Brexit period and proposed further commitments that would provide “a degree of confidence about what would happen” in that case.

However, the letter met with scepticism in Brussels. An internal EU analysis describes Johnson’s arguments as incorrect or misleading.

“The EU regrets that the new United Kingdom government wants to replace a legally operative solution with a commitment to try to find a solution – yet to be found – by the end of the transition period,” according to a European Commission note.

“We welcome the UK government’s engagement and continued commitment to an orderly withdrawal,” said commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud.

“However, we also note that the letter does not provide a legal, operational solution to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland,” she added.

Meanwhile Tuesday, the government in London announced that Britain would withdraw from most EU meetings from Sept. 1, following a pledge by Johnson to “unshackle” officials and allow them to focus on immediate priorities.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said in a statement that an incredible amount of time and effort were always taken up by EU meetings.

“From now on we will only go to the meetings that really matter, reducing attendance by over half and saving hundreds of hours,” he added.

He said that the aim was to give officials more time to prepare for Brexit and future relations with Brussels, as well as “pioneering new trade deals and promoting a truly Global Britain”.

It follows a review of British staff activities in Brussels.

Decisions on what meetings to attend will be taken on a case-by-case basis, while Johnson is still due to attend EU summits, the government announced.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the impact of the Brexit on the Irish border derives from the fact that, after Brexit, the Republic of Ireland-UK border on the island of Ireland would be the only significant external EU land border between the UK and the EU.

In particular the impact it may have on the economy and people of the island were customs or immigration checks to be put in place at the border.

The UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum on June 23 2016 and all parties have stated that they want to avoid a hard border in Ireland, due particularly to the historically sensitive nature of the border.

It was prioritised as one of three areas selected for focused negotiation to achieve the Withdrawal Agreement. (dpa/NAN)

– Aug. 20, 2019 @ 17:45 GMT |

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