The sticking point in the Brexit negotiations has long been the backstop – the provision that keeps the United Kingdom within the customs union of the European Union in the event of a deal on our future relationship not being agreed in the next two years. It is the issue that politicians are gravely concerned about, partly also because of the implications with the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border.
Theresa May needs to get concessions on the backstop, but the European Union has time and time again refused to make any changes or offer any kind of solution – until now. The European Parliament is set to announce a possible solution to the backstop issue, according to a leaked draft of the conclusions from a Brexit steering group meeting that took place today.
The leaked information suggests that the EU, instead of renegotiating the withdrawal agreement, believes it may be possible to solve the backstop issue by making changes to the future relationship declaration between the UK and the EU. The EU could suggest that if Theresa May changes her red-lines on Brexit, then they may be able to “avoid deployment of the backstop.”
Which red lines, you ask? Well, the EU is claiming that the red lines of leaving the single market and customs union, ending free movement, and stopping the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice must be reconsidered in order for any new assurances on the backstop to be made. The EU says that these red lines mean that there cannot be frictionless trade, requiring a backstop and even a border on the island of Ireland.
Mrs. May now has to make the decision – will she go back on her red lines, and switch from a position of compromise to one of out-right betrayal? May has so far shown she’s willing to betray the British people in the subtlest way possible, but in order to get new assurances on the backstop and get a deal to pass through the Commons, she might have to back down on key Brexit requirements.
It might satisfy some in the DUP, but it won’t satisfy Rees-Mogg and the ERG. So much for his optimism, yesterday…