Rather than a temporary "backstop", what we’re actually looking at is a Customs and Regulatory Alignment Periodby Jonathan Portes / June 8, 2018 / Leave a comment
So, after an unedifying 24 hours of political theatre (more Joe Orton than Shakespeare) the government has published its proposal for a “temporary customs arrangement” to serve as a “backstop” in the event that no permanent solution is in place at the end of the transition period in December 2020.
Why all the fuss about a temporary arrangement that everyone hopes will never even have to be used? Of course, the answer is that almost every word in quotes above means the exact opposite of what it says.
The backstop that isn’t a backstop
First, the backstop is not a backstop. It’s the default option. Even if the UK could make up its mind tomorrow what sort of permanent customs arrangement it wants, there isn’t any realistic prospect of it being in place by December 2020. And even if it was, none of the options currently on the table would solve the problem of the Northern Irish border—which is the point of the “backstop.”
Second, despite the fact that the government’s proposal uses the word “temporary” no less than 22 times, it’s likely to be anything but.