Tusk rejects PM's call for Irish border backstop to be scrapped

Carla Harmon
August 20, 2019

Merkel, Europe's most powerful leader, said the European Union would consider "practical solutions" but that the Withdrawal Agreement, which contains the protocol on the Irish border "backstop", did not need to be changed.

Since taking office last month, Mr Johnson has been adamant Britain will leave the European Union on October 31 come what may and has stepped up preparations for a chaotic "no deal" departure that would cause major economic disruption.

Johnson proposed that the backstop - part of the Withdrawal Agreement that then-prime minister Theresa May agreed previous year - be replaced with a "commitment" to implement alternative arrangements as part of a deal on the post-Brexit relationship.

"The letter does not provide a legal operational solution to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland", commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told reporters.


"I propose that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place (alternative) arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship", Johnson wrote.

The Prime Minister said that the backstop - the contingency plan to avoid a hard border with Ireland - should be removed from the divorce deal ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline.

The backstop, part of the withdrawal agreement negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May which has been rejected by Parliament three times, is an insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland, the BBC reported. Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support reestablishing a border. "Even if they do not admit it".

The EU wants to ensure that its only land border with the United Kingdom after Brexit does not become a back door for goods to enter the bloc's single market - which guarantees free movement of goods, capital, services and labour.


The document, seen by the PA news agency, disputes Mr Johnson's claims about the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish border.

EU President Donald Tusk tweets this in response to a letter from Johnson requesting that this emergency solution for the Irish border issue be renegotiated from the divorce agreement.

The EU wants to ensure that its only land border with the United Kingdom after Brexit does not become a back door for goods to enter the EU's single market - which guarantees free movement of goods, capital, services and labour. That includes calling a no-confidence vote in Johnson's government and, if it succeeds, fighting the ensuing general election with a pledge to hold a second public vote on Brexit.

In January, UK lawmakers backed an amendment by Conservative MP Graham Brady, supported by Theresa May's government, which called for "alternative arrangements" based on technological solutions to replace physical border checks and avoid a hard border.


He wrote that he will not support a withdrawal agreement that "locks the United Kingdom, potentially indefinitely, into an worldwide treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland". In a call with Johnson, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar reiterated the EU's position that the Withdrawal Agreement can not be reopened.

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