Main takeaway from @theresa_may Commons statement:
Lots of conciliatory words about the EU "working with us to respond to the very real concerns we had on their original [draft] proposals," and tributes to both teams of negotiators...
Also, May is conciliatory on need for backstop: "Both the UK + EU share a profound responsibility to ensure the preservation of the GFA, protecting the hard won peace and stability in NI, and ensuring that life continues essentially as it does now...."
May again says the future FTA "should provide for solutions to the unique circumstances in NI, in the long term." The backstop might be needed, however, if there's a gap between the FTA beginning and the transition ending.
But then May hardens the tone: the EU backstop would see NI "carved off into an EU customs union and parts of the SM, separated through a border in the Irish Sea from the UK’s own internal market."
No acknowledgement of Barnier's dedramatisation, or light touch checks etc
"Creating any form of Customs Border between NI and the rest of the UK would mean a fundamental change in the day to day experience of businesses in NI, with the potential to affect jobs and investment."
Again, no acceptance of the "best of both worlds" narrative...
She says London proposed the idea of a UK-wide customs backstop in June and the EU "have responded positively by agreeing to explore a UK wide customs solution to this backstop."
But... She says there are two problems.
1: the EU says there's not enough time to work out the detail in the next few weeks
2: the EU still requires a backstop to the backstop, an insurance policy to the insurance policy, which they want to be NI-specific.
Again, a doubling down: she says the UK will never accept this, and secondly the HoC already made it illegal thanks to the July ERG ammendment to the Taxation and Cross Border Act.
On the backstop to the backstop idea: the EU don't describe it as such. Rather there is a hierarchy of backstops to ensure no hard border. The FTA might do it, technology might do it, a UK-wide customs thing might do it, but the last line of defence must be a NI-specific backstop
May then says she needs to "look the British people in the eye + say this backstop is a temporary solution," otherwise it cd become a permanent limbo, if no new relationship between the EU and UK was ever agreed.
So, this is saying, if the EU + UK don't agree a suitable FTA, then the UK is stuck in a permanent customs arrangement, just to keep the Irish border open.
The other way to look at that is this: May is saying, if you don't give us the FTA we want - or the political declaration spelling that out - then we can't agree to a backstop, unless it's our UK-wide one, and unless it's got a precise cut-off point.
She says it must be: 1) the backstop shd not need to come into force, 2) if it does it must be temporary, 3) if the EU does not cooperate on our future relationship we must be able to be sure that we cannot be kept in this backstop arrangement indefinitely
The EU will say, we cannot prejudge the outcome of an FTA negotiation. We will negotiate in good faith, but we can't guarantee the outcome.
Seems to me unlikely the EU will agree to May's formulation + Dublin insists London has agreed twice in writing to the need for a backstop that doesn't come with all this conditionality. That said, I'm told both teams of negotiators really did work hard to square the circle