Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

A Chara,

Your correspondent, Newton Emerson, Opinion, Jan 17th. argues that Ireland's insistence on a backstop has backfired because it has increased the probability of a hard "no deal" Brexit which would turn the border into an external EU customs border on the 29th. March.

Conversely, your correspondent, Noel Whelan, Opinion, Jan 18th. argues that it has increased the probability of Brexit being reversed, and thus resulting in the outcome most favoured by the Irish government all along. Only time will tell, who will ultimately be proved correct.

However Newton Emerson also fundamentally misunderstands why insisting on a backstop was so important to the Irish government:

Firstly the backstop was never primarily about trade in the first place. It was about peace and stability in Ireland, and therefore essentially non-negotiable.

Secondly, to have placed a time limit on the backstop would have exposed the EU to a lot of pressure to give the UK permanent unfettered access to EU markets - in order to keep the border open - after the transition period when the EU would normally only give such access to a third country at considerable cost. Norway's per capita contribution for market access is equivalent to the UK's much hated net contribution to the EU. The UK would essentially be "having its cake and eating it."

Thirdly, while the back-stop was the issue which provoked DUP opposition to May's deal, only 45 Tory MPs gave it as their primary reason for voting against the deal. So even adding a time limit would not have come even close to bringing May's deal across the line.

Fourthly, even in a worst case scenario, where a no deal Brexit occurs, post Brexit negotiations will undoubtedly take place, and the Irish Government's and EU's red line of an open Irish border will have been burnt into the political landscape. The UK will not get a deal negotiated post Brexit that will create a hard border any more than it could beforehand.

Lastly, the DUP will not hold the balance of power forever. A future Labour led government, or even a Tory government not dependent on DUP support will not be slow to jettison DUP interests if the UK's economic interests require it. Ultimately, very few in Great Britain care a jot whether N. Ireland remains in the Single Market and Customs Union or not, and customs controls in the Irish sea will barely raise an eyebrow.

Kind regards,

Frank Schnittger

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jan 18th, 2019 at 02:59:19 PM EST

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