But the principle - avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland - was there from the beginning. Coupled with other principles in guidelines + May’s red lines, unclear (to me at least) what other proposal could have been put forward?
I can’t remember exact date, but think backstop is a consequence of EU principles & UK red lines (same as other elements of WA). What I do remember, because i wrote about it, even before guidelines is everyone wanted to avoid hard border but nobody knew how if UK out of SM/CU
On this occasion I disagree with @davidallengreen - I don't think the Ireland issue could be put into a separate strand of negotiations, and there were obvious grounds to think UK did not take issue seriously.
I understand your point. I guess my question (and i don’t know the answer) is how else do you avoid a hard border in all possible future scenarios given EU principles & UK red lines? (And am not implying principles and red lines are right or wrong, they are what they are)
Misunderstanding. Need to avoid physical NI border always priority for WA. In Dec 2017 this was _demoted_ to backstop. UK: "we want to sort it thru future rel'ship or tech". EU: "OK let's try, but if doesn't work we still need it sorted". So backstop was a _concession_ to the UK.
"Not insisting on backstop" would have meant not agreeing to try to solve border question thru future rel'ship/tech. That would have worsened chance of success. Maybe by "insisting on backstop" DAG means just "insisting on border solution in WA". But that was there from the start
This is not a provocation, and I can imagine its arguments resonating with some in EU27, but I can't agree with it. Yes, backstop emerged at a late hour, but border as a WA issue didn't. ft.com/content/0df643…
So the border was there from the start. But the UK never came forward with any credible 'flexible and imaginative ' solutions & signalled that it expected guaranteeing the CTA would suffice to meet the requirement.
'the demand for a backstop was not an explicit objective of the EU27 before last December' is thus strictly true & irrelevant. Nobody, apart it seems from parts of HMG, was in any doubt that resolution of the border issue in the WA was an explicit objective.
The one clear fact is the unless the UK and Ireland end up in the same SM and CU, there will need to be border checks somewhere; either in the Irish Sea, or on the Irish border. The backstop is a commitment to no hard border in Ireland. 1/
You may not like this backstop, or any backstop, and it may not be the best way to deal with the issue. But the border issue would be making negotiations difficult even if a different approach had been taken. That just flows from the UK's red lines.
One can discuss whether it goes further than needed to secure the Good Friday Agreement. But the key point remains. If the EU (and the UK) want to ensure no hard border (and they say they do), then the backstop needs to be in the WA. 2/
Leaving it to the future relationship, or to a separate Treaty, creates a risk that there will, eg in the event of a failure to agree terms, be a hard border once the UK has exited the EU. And I can see why the EU (and UK) do not want to take that risk. 3/3
As for the legal argument that the withdrawal agreement is not the best place to address the issue, I'll leave that to the lawyers. But the border issue arises because the Treaties will cease to apply to the UK in March 2019: it is obviously a withdrawal agreement issue.
.@MichelBarnier #GAC50: We worked a lot w/ #UK over past weeks & days to find a comprehensive deal [...] We are not there yet. Several open issues remain, incl. #Ireland. More time needed. We are going to take the time, calmly & seriously, to reach this deal over the next weeks
@davidallengreen is of course right: if HMG reneges on the backstop it previously agreed this may well lead to a no deal Brexit, considerable economic damage to Member States including Ireland, and the very hard border the backstop was designed to avoid. ft.com/content/0df643…
Does it follow that the EU was wrong to push the backstop? I don't think so. Avoiding a hard border was identified as one of the 3 key divorce issues and understandably so given the stakes. And HMG displayed bad faith on the issue throughout.
They clearly intended to use the Irish border issue to force the EU to accept no border controls anywhere, despite HMG being free to do trade deals with others, diverging in terms of regulations and all the rest of it. They were incredibly cynical.
David Davis said the Irish border would be a test case for borders more generally. Johnson said as much when he came to Dublin. And the 2 position papers in August 2017 also made it pretty clear that this was what was in their minds.
By that stage it was clear that HMG was negotiating in bad faith, and that is when the EU started becoming clearer in terms of spelling out what we basically all agree is required to avoid a hard border. What else was it supposed to do?
There was always going to be a crisis when the UK political system finally confronted the inescapable logic of borders and regulatory divergence. The problem is that it is now very late in the day and if HMG storms out of the talks or cannot deliver the Commons it may be too late
You could perhaps argue that the crisis should have been forced earlier. And in a sense it was, last December, but no sooner had HMG signed up to the backstop than Davis et al started arguing that it didn't matter. The EU pushed back hard then but should perhaps have been tougher