More assurances on Brexit backstop

The European Union and the United Kingdom agreed to swiftly start talks on a new trade deal after Brexit, according to a new "instrument" published by both sides.
The European Union and the United Kingdom agreed to swiftly start talks on a new trade deal after Brexit, according to a new "instrument" published by both sides.PHOTO: AFP

The European Union and Britain have announced additional agreements on the contentious Irish border backstop in a bid to make their stalled Brexit deal more palatable to the House of Commons.

A previous tentative agreement was defeated in January over fears that the backstop - an insurance policy to avoid extensive border checks in Ireland after Brexit - could trap Britain in EU trading rules forever. Here are some elements of the new "instrument" published by both sides on Monday:

1 The European Union and the United Kingdom agree to swiftly start talks on a new trade deal after Brexit. They stress they do not want the backstop to kick in. Should that happen, both are "determined" to agree on a different way of maintaining the open Irish border.

2 The two sides agree to a "regular" review of their agreements on the Irish border. They say the so-called Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, an international law on legal agreements between states, is a reference in any disputes.

3 Both sides will use "their best endeavours" to agree on a trade deal to obviate the need for the backstop by the end of next year.

4 "A systemic refusal to take into consideration adverse proposals or interests" would amount to a breach of the EU-UK agreement.

5 The EU and Britain "will start negotiations on a subsequent agreement as soon as possible after Britain's withdrawal from the EU. Efforts must be redoubled should the negotiations not be concluded within one year" after Brexit.

6 Both sides also commit to "working speedily" to agree, by end-2020, on alternative arrangements to the backstop. They will analyse comprehensive Customs cooperation arrangements, facilitative arrangements and technology solutions, which have all been demands by Britain.

7 The EU and UK will convene a "high-level conference" twice a year to assess progress on trade and alternatives to the backstop.

8 If an arbitration panel rules that the EU should act to have the backstop in place indefinitely, this would allow for "a unilateral and proportionate suspension" by Britain of their Customs union, but in a way that would not endanger the open Irish border.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2019, with the headline 'More assurances on Brexit backstop'. Print Edition | Subscribe