Backstop is crucial to any Brexit deal
Sir, – The article by Keir Starmer shows a keen understanding of the nuances of the Northern Ireland situation, which is both rare and welcome from a British politician (“Solution to Brexit’s biggest problem is in Ireland”, Opinion & Analysis, September 10th).
Unfortunately, it falls apart completely when it comes to his solution to the problem of the Irish Border.
His Labour solution is based on “negotiating a new comprehensive customs union with the EU which avoids the need for customs checks and tariffs”. He thinks this piece of magical thinking “provides a basis for addressing the challenges Brexit poses in Ireland, not least avoiding a hard border”. He assures us that, “Labour’s approach would also reduce pressure on negotiations over the Irish backstop by providing a clear framework for a lasting future partnership”.
In other words, please drop your backstop demands in favour of some vague promises about a yet-to-be-decided future arrangement which would, of course, be dictated by the British government, be it Labour or Tory. Trust us, we’ll work something out.
In taking this position, he completely misunderstands the principle of the backstop.
The backstop is a mechanism which removes the need for trust: it is a guarantee, not a promise.
It is astonishing that the British should expect Ireland to trust them in any way. Just look at their performance since they agreed the backstop last December to see the depth of their cynicism. They agreed to the backstop, then sought to be allowed to move to the next stage of negotiations . They had then, and have now, no intention of ever enshrining it in law.
So, we should continue negotiations with goodwill and positivity, but without a vestige of trust.
The backstop offers us a legally binding guarantee: we would be criminally naive to accept any promise that offers less than that. – Yours, etc,