Ireland officials reject British calls to renegotiate Brexit

Clay Curtis
August 21, 2019

Responding to European Union officials remarks that they are not going to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement to negotiations, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman stated that there is no prospect of a Brexit deal unless the backstop is abolished and the Withdrawal Agreement is reopened.

He also argued that the backstop risked weakening the delicate balance between pro-Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists embodied by the Good Friday agreement. In fact, it recognises that there is no guarantee that such arrangements will be in place by the end of the transition period.

Boris Johnson is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday before meeting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday.

Responding, Mr Johnson said: 'We think there is a big opportunity now for everybody to come together, take out that backstop'.

One EU source told The Guardian, a British newspaper, that there had been "a two-and-a-half-year negotiating process in which the EU [already] compromised, including on the question of the backstop".

He did not mention Johnson in the tweet but added, "Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border".

The letter marked the start of Johnson's engagement with European Union leaders; he will visit Paris and Berlin for talks with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, respectively, on Wednesday and Thursday. The backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place "alternative arrangements".

He added: "EU nationals should not have more rights than United Kingdom citizens".

The Prime Minister outlined a number of reasons for his demand for the EU to ditch the backstop in a letter to European Council president Donald Tusk. First, that it is antidemocratic because the United Kingdom may not be able to exit a customs union and Northern Ireland could be kept in some areas of regulatory alignment without a say over them.

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When asked why he was such a staunch supporter of Brexit and indeed a no deal scenario, Mr Bridgen insisted that the rights of British citizens must be protected above those from the EU.

Mr Johnson also stated that in his opinion, the backstop was "anti-democratic" and must be removed.

The backstop, he argues, should be replaced with a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period - now the end of 2020 under former PM Theresa May's deal.

The European Commission said that Johnson's letter does not hold any "legally operational solution" to stop a hard border.

The backstop would keep Britain closely aligned with the European customs union if the two sides can't agree on other ways to prevent the reintroduction of border checks on people and goods moving between Northern Ireland and Ireland. "Even if they do not admit it".

The riddle of what to do about Ireland's 500-km (300-mile) land border with the British province of Northern Ireland remains has repeatedly imperilled Brexit talks.

The bloc earlier rebuffed Johnson's demand that it reopen the Brexit divorce deal, saying Britain had failed to propose any realistic alternative to the backstop, an agreed insurance policy for the Irish border.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the focus should be achieving a deal that was acceptable to both political traditions here.

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