No Brexit Deal without Irish Backstop, MEPs to Declare in New Resolution
A return to Michel Barnier’s original backstop idea, which keeps only Northern Ireland in the EU customs union, is deemed a viable possibility.
The European Parliament is preparing to vote on a new resolution next week, which is going to uphold the EU’s firm stance in favor of an Irish border backstop clause, and will blame a no-deal Brexit entirely on the UK.
“The resolution stresses a very clear message: you can’t have an agreement without the backstop. It couldn’t really be any clearer,” David Sassoli, the speaker of the European Parliament, told reporters in Brussels, as cited by AFP and France24.
“The resolution says that if there is a no-deal departure, then that is entirely the responsibility of the United Kingdom,” he added at a news conference.
His comments came EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier briefed senior MEPs on the Brexit process, with the deadline of October 31, 2019, rapidly approching and the striking of a withdrawal deal with the British Cabinet of Boris Johnson increasingly unlikely.
Johnson has been demanding that the EU agree to the removal of the backstop clause on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from any possible Brexit accord.
The backstop clause effectively provides for keeping the UK in the EU customs union until a way is invented to keep the Irish – Irish border open after Brexit – even though it would then technically be an external border for the European Union.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, however, has made it clear that he had seen no meaningful proposals on how to replace the backstop from the UK’s Johnson Cabinet.
“Regarding the talks we are still ready to examine objectively any concrete and legally operable proposals from the UK,” Barnier told reporters.
Johnson’s chief Brexit adviser, diplomat David Frost, was in Brussels on Wednesday and will return on Friday for “technical talks” with Barnier’s team.
“The UK presented ideas in the areas of customs and manufactured goods and we had further exchanges on the political declaration,” a UK spokesman said.
Johnson maintains that his aim is a new withdrawal deal to lay the groundwork for negotiating a future free trade agreement with the EU. At the same time, however, he also insists that the UK must leave the Union at the end of October, regardless of the fate of the Brexit deal.
“No, it’s not my sense but I guess he has to say that,” said Philippe Lamberts, Green parliamentary leader and a member of the Brexit steering committee, when asked if Johnson’s comments that progress was being made were true.
“He has to give the impression that he’s negotiating in good faith. I think his whole plan is to take the UK out of the European Union without any deal but at the same time being in a position to blame the European Union for inflexibility,” Lamberts said.
“He must project the image of someone who negotiates in good faith, who wants a deal etc, so that if there is no deal obviously it can’t be him, it must be the others,” Lamberts added.
Both Lamberts and EU Parliament speaker Sassoli mentioned as a possibility the idea that the backstop measure would apply solely to Northern Ireland, whereas the rest of the UK – England, Scotland, and Wales – would all leave the EU customs union.
This setup, which was Barnier’s original backstop idea, however, is not officially supported by the Johnson Cabinet for the time being, and Barnier says he has not received any proposals at all in that regard.
“I think it is the most sensible option because it allows the mainland UK to still have full autonomy in terms of regulations and customs and yet it is a special treatment for Northern Ireland,” Lamberts told reporters before meeting Barnier.
“That to me, seen from my perspective is a lesser difficulty than having the entire United Kingdom in such an arrangement,” he added.
(Banner image: David Sassoli on Twitter)