May renegotiate backstop for Northern Ireland
British Prime Minister May sees no majority for a second referendum. Now she wants to negotiate again on the Northern Ireland question.
Theresa May presented her “Plan B” to the Brexit Agreement in the British House of Commons. She said you had to call Item 50 if you wanted to rule out an unregulated Brexit. That would give more time to improve the arrangements. However, May also points out that the EU will not extend Article 50 in time if there is no concrete plan.
Call for a postponement of Brexit, she has rejected. She pleaded for further talks with all major politicians, especially from the government camp and the Northern Irish DUP, to explore how to achieve “maximum support”. Best this week. With the new proposals she would then travel to Brussels.
May: Second referendum “difficult precedent”
May does not believe, however, that there would be a majority vote in the British House of Commons for a second referendum. Moreover, a second referendum would generally be a “difficult precedent” and difficult for the British people. The people voted for a Brexit in 2016.
Belfast agreement is firm
May says she understands that for a soft Brexit, the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement) must be 100 percent respected – not just the UK border, but also the law of the sea. The backstop is to stop the incessant limbo if Northern Ireland is handled differently than the rest of the UK.
In the former trouble-free region of Northern Ireland, it has been largely peaceful since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The basis for this success is that the 500-kilometer border between Ireland and Great Britain, which is part of the United Kingdom, is open. The big question is how things go after Brexit. After all, Northern Ireland is no longer in the EU and the border with its neighbor in the south becomes an EU external border. People and goods would have to be checked again. Ireland is trying to prevent that.
The UK government proposes a special customs and trade agreement to settle the problem, which will be sealed after Brexit at the end of March in a 20-month transitional period. In the period until the end of 2020, all EU rules still apply on the island. If that does not work out, the EU wants to anchor, as it were, an insurance policy clause in the exit agreement, according to which Northern Ireland would remain in the EU economic area after the end of the transitional phase. In English, the construction is known as “backstop”. That would hold until a better solution is found. Britain fears this but new customs controls between Northern Ireland and the British territory.