The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk, he has again attempted to abolish the backstop regulation on the Irish border in the Brexit agreement. Johnson made it clear that the United Kingdom would leave the EU on 31 October. “I sincerely hope that we will exit with an agreement”, Johnson wrote.
This is the “highest priority” of his government, it says at the beginning of the four-page letter to Tusk, which was also transmitted by the Prime Minister to the Heads of State and Government of the other 27 EU countries and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Tusk’s and the European Commission’s early reactions to Johnson’s push were cautious or critical.
Johnson once again made it clear in the letter that the backstop – an emergency regime preventing checks at the border between the United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland and the EU Member Ireland after leaving – was unacceptable to London.
Johnson offers Tusk in his letter, as a substitute for the backstop called “anti-democratic”, that both sides legally agree not to set up border controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Johnson writes of a transition period with “alternative agreements” that should make controls superfluous.
Apparently, this is intended in particular to an electronic detection of trade flows. There have been reflections on this for a long time, but concrete solutions are not yet in sight.
Not least because of this, in the event that until the expiry of the transitional period, which is currently planned until the end of 2020, no “alternative agreements” come into being, the head of state offers something that at first sight may seem like a concession: “We are willing to look constructively and flexibly on what commitments, of course in line with the principles set out in this letter, could be helpful”.
Tusk, the main addressee of the letter, responded coolly and dismissively to Johnson’s advance. On Twitter the EU Council President reiterated that the backstop was designed as insurance until another solution was found. Indirectly, he accused Johnson of working to reintroduce internal border controls. “Those who reject the backstop and suggest no realistic alternatives actually support the reintroduction of a border”, Tusk tweeted.
The letter to Tusk states that the backstop arrangement is “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the United Kingdom as a state”, Johnson wrote. The backstop ties the kingdom potentially to an international treaty forever, binding it to the EU Customs Union. There is no way for the British to get out of it.
Johnson said the backstop itself may jeopardize peace by weakening the “delicate balance” created by the “Good Friday Agreement” to settle the civil war in Northern Ireland.
A spokeswoman for the Commission, on whose behalf EU chief negotiators Michel Barnier So far, the Brexit talks with London are ongoing, said Tuesday, the commission shares Tusk’s Twitter-based assessment.
Johnson’s letter did not contain a viable legal solution to avoid a “hard” inner-Irish border, even though this was the stated common goal of the 27 EU partners and London. Rather, Johnson acknowledges in his letter that there are no guarantees for “alternative agreements” before the end of the transitional period initially planned until the end of 2020 after the British exit from the EU.
The spokeswoman protested against London’s efforts to push the black Peter for a “hard Brexit” the EU partners. “An orderly exit is in the best interest of both the EU and the UK. And we want to continue working on that”, said the spokeswoman.
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