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In a new report, Open Europe explores how the backstop has led to the current Brexit stalemate and identifies key areas where a compromise can be found.
26 September 2019
Open Europe has today published a new report, “Brexit and the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement: Finding a way through the backstop impasse.”
The new Government led by Boris Johnson has highlighted a number of these concerns, signalling a shift from the negotiating position of Theresa May’s Government. The EU – and particularly Ireland – believes that the UK Government is reneging on commitments made in the December 2017 Joint Report and eventually enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement. However, the EU refused to contemplate alternatives outlined in 2017 and has maintained an absolutist position at the expense of the compromises required to recognise the special circumstances of Northern Ireland. A deal that remains unratified does not provide any reassurance to the people of Northern Ireland. It was always the case that the impasse over the backstop could lead to a No Deal Brexit.
Finding a way out of the current impasse will require compromise on all sides, and a concerted effort to return to a harmonious bilateral relationship between the UK and Ireland. Whether there is a Brexit deal or not, there is a need for greater effort on all sides to look at alternative arrangements to the backstop.
This also involves recognising the need for special arrangements for Northern Ireland, but only on a case-by-case basis as agreed by the parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly. The British and the Irish Governments, in particular, need to ensure that the structures are put in place to allow this to happen. There is scope to do so in a way that builds on the framework of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, providing an enhanced role for the institutions established under the three strands of the Agreement.
These would include:
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