by Frank Schnittger
Fri Jul 19th, 2019 at 11:16:56 PM EST
The European Tribune has come into possession of a secret memorandum of the Irish Department of External Affairs...
Caution: To be shared with UK Government only after talks with the incoming UK Prime Minister have irretrievably broken down.
Memorandum proposing a process to overcome Withdrawal Agreement impasse.
Background: Para. 5 of the EU/UK agreement to extend the A.50 negotiation period explicitly prohibits the UK from using the extension to seek to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. Further negotiations were to focus exclusively on the legally non-binding accompanying political declaration. However, it has become clear during the Conservative Party leadership election that without at least some face saving device the Withdrawal Agreement, in its current form, will not be passed by the UK Parliament. The Irish Government will therefore be faced, at the very least, with a period of "No-deal" Brexit until such time as the current UK Government, dependent as it is on the DUP, is no longer in power.
In order to overcome this likelihood, the following strategy and process is recommended:
- The UK government be inveigled to introduce the Withdrawal Agreement sans the Irish backstop to the Houses of Parliament for approval. Approval should be possible once the Irish backstop, the key issue opposed by Brexiteer hardliners and the DUP has been removed. Once approved it should be presented as a fait accomplis to the September meeting of the European Council - who can be counted on to reject it.
- Separately, in secret, and in parallel, the Irish and UK governments will negotiate and agree amendments to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, guaranteeing the maintenance of "regulatory alignment," a Customs Union and a Single Market on the Island of Ireland.
- Separately, in secret, and in parallel, the EU, Irish and UK governments will negotiate and agree a "Maximum Facilitation" Agreement, whereby the UK will facilitate EU Customs Inspectors, their delegates or contractors, to carry out goods inspections at N. Ireland Air and Sea ports to ensure all goods passing through are compliant with all relevant EU regulations and tariffs due.
- Item 2 above will require UK Parliamentary approval which should be forthcoming with some opposition (but not DUP) support. Effectively we will be disaggregating elements of the Withdrawal Agreement which can, and can not, command DUP support respectively, but can (separately) command some opposition support.
- Item 3 above, concerning as it does, administrative arrangements only, may not require a Parliamentary vote. Otherwise the strategy in Item 4 applies.
- Essential to the success of this strategy is that the DUP does not become aware of items 2. and 3. Above until item 1 has been accomplished. After that it is out of the game.
- The EU Council will approve the Withdrawal Agreement sans the Irish backstop subject to the completion of items 2 and 3. above at a last minute "emergency" summit called just before the A.50 extension is due to expire.
Besides the importance of secrecy, this step by step approach to the conclusion of three Agreements collectively equivalent to the current Withdrawal Agreement is crucially dependent on timing. The UK government must be convinced that this is the only workable course of action open to it at each point in time if a disastrous period of "no deal" Brexit is to be avoided.
NB The Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement is actually made up of two agreements: An inter-governmental and an inter-party agreement. It is the Inter-governmental agreement that would require amendment. The N. Ireland parties are unlikely to be able to agree on any revisions to their agreement, but that deals with devolved matters only. Customs is not a devolved competency, and therefore is properly dealt with by way of amendment to the international agreement between the British and Irish governments (the British–Irish Agreement).
The Good Friday agreement assumed that both the UK and Ireland would always be members of the EU, and was concluded before the inclusion (in the Lisbon Treaty) of the A.50 process for a member to leave. It is therefore in need of revision and updating in light of the decision of the UK to leave the EU.