Theresa May’s top Brexit adviser warns Irish backstop a ‘bad outcome’ for Britain

Posted On: 
3rd December 2018

Theresa May's top Brexit adviser warned that the backstop deal to avoid a hard Irish border in all circumstances is a “bad outcome” for the UK and there is no legal guarantee that ministers can withdraw from it.

The Prime Minister's Europe Adviser Olly Robbins has said the backstop represents a 'bad outcome'
PA Images

According to the Daily Telegraph, Olly Robbins warned in a letter to the Prime Minister that the European Union is under no legal "obligation" to end the controversial clause despite both sides having signed up to act in good faith to end the arrangement.

Under the PM's deal, the backstop will kick in on the first day of 2021 if no trade deal has been struck between the UK and Brussels and if the post-Brexit implementation period has not been extended.

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However, Brexiteers are furious that the Government would not be able to withdraw from it without the EU also agreeing.

In a letter to Mrs May, Mr Robbins wrote: “We should not forget that the backstop would, even with a UK-EU customs union, be a bad outcome with regulatory controls needed somewhere between GB and NI, serious and visible frictions and process between GB and the EU, and no security co-operation provided for.”

The senior civil servant added that extending the implementation period, which kicks in after Britain quits the bloc on 29 March, 2019, would provide a more "cast iron escape route".

The revelation comes a day after leaked legal advice from the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox showed the backstop arrangement would only end if Britain signed a new trade deal – but warned that that could take years and talks could collapse.

Mr Cox is expected to publish a summary of his advice later today, despite Parliament demanding its publication in full.

The row prompts a fresh headache for the Government, which is on course to lose next week’s “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal, amid anger from Tory Brexiteers and DUP MPs over the backstop arrangement.

Meanwhile Downing Street has this morning denied a report in The Sun that the vote, scheduled for 11 December, could be delayed to allow Mrs May to carry out further negotiations with the EU.

Priti Patel, a leading Eurosceptic Tory MP and former Cabinet minister, told the Telegraph of Mr Robbins’ comments: "When even the architect of this agreement appears to be saying this is a bad deal, colleagues must seriously question how they can vote for this.

"This only makes a stronger case for MPs to see the Attorney General’s full legal advice before being asked to vote on this terrible deal. It also raises serious questions as to what other information are they hiding from MPs."