Fact box: What is the Irish ‘backing’ at the heart of the Brexit impasse?

DUBLIN (Reuters) – The Irish “backstop”, part of the Withdrawal Agreement former Prime Minister Theresa May signed in November, is the linchpin in efforts to agree an orderly British exit from the European Union.

The new prime minister, Boris Johnson, said this week that in order to reach a new withdrawal agreement, backing would have to be removed.

Under the mechanism, the UK will remain in a customs union with the EU “unless and until” alternative arrangements are found to avoid a hard border.

Many British lawmakers oppose being subject to EU customs rules and tariffs that would prevent Britain from making its own trade deals and leave it under the supervision of EU judges.

The following are the key points of the backstop and the dispute around it:

RACK TARGETS

* The Irish government has described the backstop as an insurance policy to ensure that Ireland’s 500 km (300 mi) land border with the British province of Northern Ireland remains open, regardless of the outcome of negotiations over the withdrawal of Great EU Britain.

* Ireland says this is a key national interest as any border controls or infrastructure could undermine Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal. More than 3,600 people died in the three-decade conflict between unionists who wanted Northern Ireland to it was still British and Irish nationalists who want Northern Ireland to join a united Ireland ruled from Dublin. The open border has helped calm anger among Irish nationalists over British rule.

* Both the European Union and the UK have said they do not want any physical infrastructure on the Irish border, and both say they would prefer the backstop never to come into force, but have failed to agree on alternative arrangements.

HOW DOES IT WORK

* The backstop in its original form required Northern Ireland to remain highly aligned with EU customs rules to remove the need for physical infrastructure or related checks at the Irish border after Brexit.

* The version of the Withdrawal Agreement signed by May expanded support to cover the whole of the UK, at the insistence of Northern Ireland unionists, who want to avoid the possibility of a virtual border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK . .

* Under the current text of the Withdrawal Agreement, the backstop would be invoked at the end of the transition period in 2020, creating a single EU-UK customs territory, including “level playing field” rules, ensuring fair competition in areas such as environment. , state aid and labor regulations

* The clause is designed as a default mechanism to remain in effect “unless and until” it is superseded by alternative arrangements that ensure the same result.

WHY BREXITEERS OBJECT

* Brexit supporters fear the backstop would keep Britain dependent on rules set from Brussels over which they would have no say, and would hamper their efforts to strike trade deals with third countries, one of the key benefits they see from leaving the Union European in the future. first place. Some pro-Brexit politicians have said it would turn Britain into a “vassal state.”

* May has called for “alternative arrangements” to avoid an unbacked hard border and Brexit supporters insist technology can enable virtual checks without physical infrastructure at the border. The EU has rejected the proposed alternatives, saying they have not been tested and must be worked on during the transition.

*Others have suggested a time limit or unilateral backstop clause to avoid the possibility of the UK being permanently bound by EU rules. But in recent days, Johnson has rejected this proposal, saying the endorsement must be removed entirely.

BREXIT ‘NO DEAL’?

* Without a deal, Ireland would not be able to allow the only EU country bordering the UK to stay open for long. If it did not control goods from Britain, Ireland itself could find the EU raising questions about whether Irish exports to the rest of the Union should remain free of all controls at its ports.

Reporting by Conor Humphries and Graham Fahy; Edited by Guy Faulconbridge and Frances Kerry

Regina Anderson

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