This controversial Brexit protocol is necessary and has public supportby Sam Lowe / March 14, 2019 / Leave a comment
The Westminster debate on the Irish backstop is deeply divisive. This protocol would see Northern Ireland remain de facto in the single market for goods, and the whole UK in a customs union, in the event that another solution is not found. Much of the moaning from Brexiters has been with regard to the constraints a whole UK customs union (something actually asked for by the UK) would place on an independent trade policy. For the DUP, the problem is increased regulatory checks down the Irish sea, which in their view threatens Northern Ireland’s status as an integral part of the United Kingdom.
There are strong feelings on all sides. But here are three reasons the backstop is actually a good thing for Northern Ireland.
Both the UK and EU have committed to ensuring no physical infrastructure or associated checks on the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, no matter what. This is a sensible approach given the region remains volatile and in the midst of an ongoing peace process. The proposed backstop just about achieves that. Admittedly, it still requires some adaptation from businesses—for example goods produced in Northern Ireland requiring third-party certification would need to obtain it from an EU27-based notified body, unlike now—but an everyday person or trader living and working across the border would likely see little change from now, were it to be implemented.
No other proposal to date achieves this. While we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that a combination of a future UK-EU economic partnership and technological solutions could achieve something similar, such a solution is dependent on the yet to be agreed future relationship. Hence the need for a backstop.
It places NI in an advantageous position, relative to Britain
With Northern Ireland remaining effectively embedded both within the EU’s single market for goods and the internal market of the UK, it places the territory in the advantageous position of having a foot in both camps. This makes Northern Ireland relatively more attractive to manufacturing firms hoping to sell to buyers both in the EU27 and the UK. Would it be enough to offset the damaging economic impacts of Brexit? Probably not, but it at least gives Northern Ireland a unique selling point from which…