Published: Tue, August 20, 2019
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

EU's Verhofstadt: No majority in European Union parliament remove backstop from Withdrawal Agreement

EU's Verhofstadt: No majority in European Union parliament remove backstop from Withdrawal Agreement

The President of the European Council Donald Tusk hit back at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his remarks on "backstop", saying ditching the so-called Brexit backstop without an alternative was in fact supporting reestablishing the Irish border.

To that end, he wrote to the European Union, underscoring his position only days before he plans to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday in Berlin and French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday in Paris, before traveling to a summit of G-7 leaders this weekend in Biarritz, France.

In his text, Johnson focused on the so-called "backstop", which says the United Kingdom must stay in the EU's customs union until it finds a mutually acceptable way to maintain an open border between the two Irelands as well as fulfilling third-country customs obligations.

In January, UK lawmakers backed an amendment by Conservative MP Graham Brady, supported by Theresa May's government, which called for "alternative arrangements" based on technological solutions to replace physical border checks and avoid a hard border.

Boris Johnson has been rebuffed by Brussels after he demanded there be major changes to a new Brexit deal and the Irish backstop to be scrapped.

While business and agriculture bodies have been vocal in their support for the backstop, unionist politicians have been vociferous in their opposition, claiming it could undermine the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom by creating economic borders between the north of Ireland and Great Britain.

The riddle of what to do about Ireland's 500-km (300-mile) land border with the British province of Northern Ireland remains has repeatedly imperilled Brexit talks. "Even if they do not admit it", Tusk wrote on Twitter.

The UK leader called the backstop "anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK as a state".

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"I mean, when you look across unionism, we are all against the backstop so that should concern the Dublin Government, because if the Dublin Government is genuine and values the Belfast Agreement they should be very concerned that unionism does not support the backstop".

"It does not set out what any alternative arrangements could be, and in fact, it recognises there is no guarantee that such arrangements will be in place by the end of the transitional period". The backstop should be replaced by "alternative arrangements".

Mr Trump later said he and Mr Johnson had shared a "great discussion" in which they talked about moving "rapidly on a US-UK free trade deal" after Britain's departure from the bloc.

However, the letter doesn't provide a legal, operational solution to prevent the return of a hard border on island of Ireland.

Political leaders in the north of Ireland have clashed over Boris Johnson's claim that the backstop will damage the peace process.

It's not just the European Union that has rebuffed the Tory leader's calls on the backstop.

A leaked report showed that the British government is preparing for widespread shortages of food, fuel and medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Responding, Mr Johnson said: "We think there is a big opportunity now for everybody to come together, take out that backstop".

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