December 12, 2018

David Davis manifesto proposes 10-year backstop as solution to MPs’ Northern Ireland concerns

By Luke Christou

David Davis has teamed up with Dominic Raab and DUP leader Arlene Foster to launch a campaign for “a better Brexit” led by the former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, according to the Guardian.

With Theresa May on the brink of losing leadership of the Conservative party after a vote of no confidence was triggered today, Davis has thrown his hat into the ring with a manifesto that promises to “restore – rather than destroy – the UK’s leverage for future trade talks with the EU” and “safeguard the integrity of the United Kingdom”.

According to a summary of the manifesto published on social media network Twitter by Guardian journalist Lisa O’Carroll, the document – titled “A Better Deal” – offers a potential solution to one of the main concerns raised by MPs following the publication of Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Solving the Northern Ireland backstop problem

“One of the many reasons that Parliament is so hostile to the Prime Minister’s current proposal is that it would place the UK in a ‘single customs territory’ by virtue of the backstop, giving the EU no incentive to make concessions in future trade negotiations,” the document reads.

The Northern Ireland backstop agreed between UK and EU negotiators was drafted in order to avoid having a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which many fear could reignite tensions between the two countries.

The backstop would see Northern Ireland temporarily remain in the EU customs union until a trade agreement is negotiated with the UK.

Unsurprisingly, hard Brexiteers, keen to see the UK break away from the EU, are unhappy about this.

However, Davis’ manifesto insists that with Brexit negotiations under his control, there would be no single customs territory between the UK and the EU.

Instead, there would be a new 10-year, extendable backstop put in place, which would see the UK exit the EU’s single customs territory completely. This would allow the UK to agree a new solution with the EU, while taking back control of its tariffs and regulations.

Free trade between the UK and EU would continue with zero tariffs and few restrictions, while both sides would agree to implement “advanced customs and trade facilitation measures” as a solution to the Irish border.

According to the manifesto, Davis’ proposal “would not in itself be a negative outcome and it could quite legitimately become the frontstop”.

Speaking at the campaign launch, Davis said:

“Our strategy is to present to the EU a full legal text, not a speech, not a policy paper, but a legal text.

“That legal text is based entirely, with one exception, on precedents that currently exist, previous EU treaties, with Canada, veterinary one with New Zealand.”

According to Davis, his backstop proposal offers the “clearest, cleanest answer to getting out of the negotiating cul-de-sac we are in today”.

The manifesto was put together by Shanker Singham, CEO of Competere, former Dutch customs association president Hans Maessen and Robert MacLean, a lawyer who frequently represents EU industries and corporations in trade-related cases.

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