Theresa May: My backstop Brexit proposal is 'unpalatable'

Posted On: 
7th June 2018

Theresa May has said her proposals for avoiding a hard border in Ireland if there is no Brexit deal are "unpalatable" as she called on Conservative MPs to support them.

Theresa May has endured a torrid day of Brexit blows.
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister insisted that if they were implemented they would only be a "temporary" solution, and stressed that they were still better than what the EU wants.

She made her comments in a letter to all Tory MPs at the end of a day of high drama in which the splits on Brexit at the top of her party were once again exposed.

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Mrs May finally published her so-called "backstop" proposal, which sets out how the UK would stay in a customs union with the EU until a solution to the Irish border issue is found, after tense meetings with Brexiteer Cabinet ministers David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox.

Friends of Mr Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said he was prepared to resign unless the Prime Minister agreed to put a date in the six-page document setting out when the backstop arrangement would end.

The proposal now says now says the Government "expects" the emergency measures to end by the start of 2022, although it stops short of saying they would definitely be over by then.

The EU's proposal, which Mrs May has already dismissed, would see Northern Ireland remain in the single market and customs union, effectively moving the border to the Irish Sea.

In her letter, Mrs May says: "To put it frankly, if we are to make good progress in the negotiations and deliver the smooth, orderly and successful Brexit the country wants, we need to agree with the EU the terms of the backstop.

"We have a choice between the Commission's proposal, which however hypothetical must be unacceptable in principle to anyone who believes in the Union of the United Kingdom, and an alternative that is unpalatable but at worst temporary. That is why we are advancing this proposal.

"This backstop arrangement is in no way the Government's intended or desired future customs arrangement, and in any case its temporary nature means it cannot be."

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, has already dismissed the UK plan as "unworkable".

He tweeted: "Difficult to see how UK proposal on customs aspects of IE/NI backstop will deliver a workable solution to avoid a hard border & respect integrity of the SM/CU. A backstop that is temporary is not a backstop, unless the definitive arrangement is the same as the backstop."