Newton Emerson: North vote could offer Johnson an exit from backstop stalemate

A backstop referendum is considered unwise in official circles because it would turn into a proxy Border poll

Anti-Brexit protester in a Boris Johnson, mask pretends to dig a grave outside Downing Street: A backstop referendum is considered unwise in official circles because it would turn into a proxy Border poll. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Anti-Brexit protester in a Boris Johnson, mask pretends to dig a grave outside Downing Street: A backstop referendum is considered unwise in official circles because it would turn into a proxy Border poll. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

‘A backstop with a time limit ceases to be a backstop,” Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee said on Monday, ruling out a suggestion at the weekend by her predecessor, Lucinda Creighton, that the Government might have to accept a five-year limit.

In practice, the limit would be more than eight years, as it would not start until the end of the transition period, which under the existing withdrawal agreement can be extended to the last day of 2022. Speculation on a limit has always cited a figure of five years, taking the deadline to have alternative arrangements in place up to the end of 2027.

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