Overview

  • Contained in the unapproved Withdrawal Agreement
  • Agreed by the EU and the UK Government
  • Withdrawal Agreement rejected three times by Parliament
  • A variant of it may be agreed
  • Applies if future EU UK Agreement does not avoid NI hard border
  • Applies if no EU UK Agreement at end Transition Period 2020 (+?)
  • EU and UK must agree that test is met
  • NI remains in EU Customs Union
  • NI remains in most EU Single Market goods rules
  • GB in customs partnership with EU
  • GB in regulatory alignment with EU
  • GB (not NI) could readily revoke these commitments
  • No Financial Contributions

What it is?

If a new comprehensive trading agreement between the UK and the EU, contemplated under the (unapproved) Withdrawal Agreement is entered which addresses the specific Northern Ireland “hard border” and Good Friday/Belfast Agreement issues then the backstop. will never take effect. If no such agreement is entered the backstop takes effect.

Northern Ireland remains in the EU Customs Union. It remains in the EU single market for most purposes in relations to goods. Northern Ireland is subject to certain EU regulatory rules during the backstop period which is designed to enable it to continue to have free access to the European Union internal single market in goods and to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The backstop provides for a UK wide customs partnership with the EU. There are provisions for a level playing field between the EU and UK in relation to a broad range of matters such as state aid to industry, competition employment and environmental standards.

Subsequent agreement

The European Union and the United Kingdom shall use their best endeavours to conclude, by 31 December 2020, an agreement which supersedes the Protocol in whole or in part. Any subsequent agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom shall indicate the parts of the Protocol which it supersedes.

Once a subsequent agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom becomes applicable after the entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Protocol shall then, from the date of application of such subsequent agreement and in accordance with the provisions of that agreement setting out the effect of that agreement on the Protocol, not apply or shall cease to apply, as the case may be, in whole or in part.

VAT and excise

The provisions of European Union law listed in the annex on VAT and excise to the Protocol (summarised in another article) concerning goods shall apply to and in the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland.

The Joint Committee shall regularly discuss the implementation of this Article, and where appropriate, adopt the necessary measures for its proper application.

Agriculture and environment

The provisions of European Union law listed in Annex 5 to the Protocol (summarised in another article) shall apply, under the conditions set out therein, to and in the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland.

Ending the Backstop

The backstop is intended to be temporary and the EU and UK agree in good faith to negotiate alternative solutions. In theory, Great Britain could exit the customs partnership with the European Union leaving Northern Ireland in a continuing customs partnership and regulatory alignment with the European Union while remaining part of the United Kingdom.

It is distinctly possible that the UK wide customs partnership made the basis of an ongoing substituted trading arrangement.

which includes or is based on a customs partnership between the UK and EU. It may involve a continued customs partnership or a customs partnership with significant regulatory alignment with the EU.  This would be consistent with the declaration in relation to the future trading relationship.

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