It is the Brexiteers who have created a border crisis

Boris Johnson contends that the issue of the border has been 'politically charged'.

Friday, 20th July 2018, 1:01 am
Updated Friday, 20th July 2018, 1:23 am

It has been— by the Conservatives and the DUP.

Whilst the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain, the DUP, who May’s government are so reliant on for crucial Brexit votes, have been allowed to influence the UK government thinking on the issue of the border.

In order to satisfy their commitments to avoiding a hard border in NI, both the UK and EU agreed the need for a back-up plan. This back-up plan became known as the backstop, that would see NI remain in the customs union and the single market for goods that would ensure free flow of goods and obviate the need for customs checks.

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Not ideal, but it wasn’t designed to be. It was an insurance policy unless or until the UK came up with a long-term workable future relationship that would ensure the border remained open and frictionless. But crucially, it would ensure NI could trade both North-South and East-West.

May was perfectly happy to agree a backstop solution without issue in December; it wasn’t until the DUP unhelpfully weighed in at the eleventh hour that the issue suddenly became politically toxic.

So weak, she had no other choice but to concede to their demands. This has proved to be a fatal mistake for May, as progress can’t be made on the Withdrawal Agreement unless the backstop is honoured.

The breathless hysteria from the DUP and Tory Brexiteers describing the backstop as “annexing” NI has boxed her in.

An even bigger mistake came this this week. Clause 37 of the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill that went through on the nod essentially outlawed the backstop, making a no-deal scenario more likely than ever.

Brexiteers like to say that the border issue is a manufactured crisis. It isn’t.

The only manufactured crisis was their handling of the backstop, making it something it wasn’t.

And this will prove to be their undoing.

Sorcha Eastwood, Brexit Adviser, Alliance Party