Stephen Farry: The Brexit white paper is a grand delusion which EU will reject

Stephen Farry, the Alliance Party deputy leader and MLA for North Down. He is the party's Brexit spokesperson
Stephen Farry, the Alliance Party deputy leader and MLA for North Down. He is the party's Brexit spokesperson

The Brexit white paper published by the government is a grand delusion.

It is not a realistic platform for the United Kingdom to negotiate a future relationship with the European Union.

The entire package would undermine both the economic and security position for the UK.

In any event, large elements will be rejected by the European Union as being unworkable or fundamentally at odds with how the European Union works.

The European Commission has already been extremely clear that the single market cannot be fragmented.

This begs the question, where is the UK government heading with this?

Short of reversing Brexit itself, the only viable options are to move to a formal soft Brexit, based around a fresh customs union and participation in the European Economic Area, or special arrangements for Northern Ireland in those regards.

Otherwise, we are looking at a default of a catastrophic hard Brexit.

There is only one reference in over 100 pages to Northern Ireland backstop — and no counterproposals.

This is the most immediate issue to be resolved for a Withdrawal Agreement and transition deal to be finalised.

Everything else is for future relationships.

The backstop is only meant to be an insurance policy and builds on existing precedents.

It represents the minimum required to maintain an open border in Ireland in all circumstances and to protect the Good Friday Agreement, and is consistent with the current political settlement.

While not perfect, it is a foundation on which to build a wider future relationship.

• Dr Stephen Farry is the Alliance Party’s deputy leader and MLA for North Down. He is the party’s Brexit spokesperson