Boris Johnson demands end to Irish backstop in letter setting out Brexit demands

Boris Johnson has demanded the scrapping of the Irish backstop in a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk.

It was one of the Prime Minister’s requests as he set out his proposals for reaching a new Brexit deal ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU on October 31.

He says the backstop, which aims to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is ‘anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK.’

Johnson says: ‘Time is very short. But the UK is ready to move quickly, and, given the degree of common ground already, I hope that the EU will be ready to do likewise.

‘The changes we seek relate primarily to the backstop. The problems with the backstop run much deeper than the simple political reality that it has three times been rejected by the House of Commons.

‘The truth is that it is simply unviable, for these three reasons. First, it is anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK as a state.’

He said the arrangement would lock the UK, ‘potentially indefinitely’ into an international treaty which would bind the country into a customs union, forcing Northern Ireland to follow EU single market legislation.

There would be a ‘regulatory border’ between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, undermining the sovereignty of the entire Unite Kingdon, Johnson argues.

He says it ‘affords the people of Northern Ireland no influence over the legislation which applies to them.’

The Prime Minister said the backstop is ‘inconsistent’ with the UK’s aim for a ‘sustainable long-term relationship’ with the EU, outside of the single market and customs union.

He added: ‘By requiring continued membership of the customs union and applying many single market rules in Northern Ireland, it presents the whole of the UK with the choice of remaining in a customs union and aligned with those rules, or of seeing Northern Ireland gradually detached from the UK economy across a very broad range of areas.

He also argues the backstop ‘risks weakening the delicate balance embodied in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement’, forged in the 1990s to end bloodshed between republicans and loyalist militants.

The Tory leader said the ‘carefully negotiated balance’ in the province risked being compromised.

He added: ‘While I appreciate the laudable intentions with which the backstop was designed, by removing control of such large areas of the commercial and economic life of Northern Ireland to an external body over which the people of Northern Ireland have no democratic control, this balance risks being undermined.’

Explaining how he thinks the Irish border question should be handled instead, he stressed the importance of no hard border and vowed not to put any ‘infrastructure, checks, or controls’ between Northern Ireland and the republic.

He propses the backstop is replaced with ‘a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship.’

He encouraged finding ‘flexible and creative’ solutions to manage the customs and regulatory differences between both countries after Brexit.

He added: ‘The reality is that there are already two separate legal, political, economic, and monetary jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.

‘This system is already administered without contention and with an open border.’

In his first phone call with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as Prime Minister, Johnson was told the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May’s government is not open for renegotiation.

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