We can easily get side-tracked into specifics about “chlorinated chicken”, which distracts from the fundamental issue at hand – who makes our laws and government policy?
Should it be the European Commission or a democratically-elected British government deciding on whether we impose high tariffs on sugar cane, or allow chlorinated chicken to be imported?
Under the current Withdrawal Agreement the UK will be subject to EU procurement rules, EU foreign policy, EU state aid rules and remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice for at least another 10 years.
And all without any say.
It also involves significant commitments and further integration on EU Defence Union projects including all associated EU defence rules, payments, programme governance and policies.
According to Veterans for Britain “the UK will lose crucial parts of future defence decision-making to the EU if May’s deal goes through”.
Without significant changes to the Brexit backstop we are faced with Remain or vassalage and I am not sure which is worse – at least with Remain the UK would have MEPs and veto in some areas.
The backstop carves off Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, making it directly subject to EU law and trade policy without representation and contravenes the Good Friday Agreement by siphoning away North-South institution elements into an unelected EU committee.
And it will inevitably lead to either official or unofficial proxy representation by Dublin MEPs.
It should be remembered that the backstop keeps Northern Ireland in “the” EU customs union, whilst Great Britian is in “a” customs union with the EU.
So when the future relationship is negotiated it may well be that Great Britain will get a free trade deal with the EU and leaves the single market and customs union, but under the backstop Northern Ireland will have to remain in “the” EU customs union – unless or until the EU27, including Dublin, say otherwise.
Or more likely that the UK will sign up to a customs union rendering a lot of Brexit pointless since the EU would continue to dictate UK trade policy (except we may have no say at all).
A time limit or exit clause to the backstop are far from reassuring in and of themselves.
Far better that we see alternative arrangements (such as “the frontstop” or the FSB proposal of a free port) as envisaged by the Brady amendment and Malthouse compromise.
The USA for example currently conducts its security and immigration checks in Dublin Airport before passengers depart.
So why could the EU not conduct a limited set of checks / monitoring at Northern Ireland ports on goods deemed to be headed for the EU single market in conjunction with “in the market checks”, which the EU have already outlined in the backstop.
Both this and the FSB free port solution allow Northern Ireland to retain an open border with the Republic whilst leaving the EU structures with the rest of the UK.
This should be augmented by a full legal implementation of paragraph 50 of the Joint Report (December 2017).
“In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.”
Alan Day is a former UKIP candidate for Mid Ulster