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Brexit: Northern Ireland

Question for Department for Exiting the European Union

UIN HL11736, tabled on 22 November 2018

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they intend to ensure that the protocol on Northern Ireland included in the draft agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU will “apply only temporarily” as set out in article 1(4) of that protocol; and under what circumstances they anticipate the protocol might be extended as noted in the preamble to the protocol.

Answered on

6 December 2018

The agreement preserves the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, upholds the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and ensures people and businesses that rely on an open border between the Northern Ireland and Ireland can continue living their lives and operating as they do now. It does so through a temporary single UK-EU customs territory or through an option to extend the implementation period for a short period of time until the new economic relationship is in place.

The Government is clear the backstop is an insurance policy that no-one ever wants to come into effect. Both the UK and the EU are fully committed to having our future relationship in place by 1st January 2021 and the Withdrawal Agreement has a legal duty on both sides to use best endeavours to avoid the backstop ever coming into force. Despite this, if the future relationship is not ready by the end of 2020, the UK would not be forced to use the backstop. The UK would have a clear choice between the backstop or a short extension to the Implementation Period. If the backstop was entered into, the legal text is clear that it should be temporary and that the Article 50 legal base cannot provide for a permanent relationship. There is also a termination clause, which allows the backstop to be turned off when we have fulfilled our commitments on the Northern Ireland border, and there is a unilateral right to trigger a review through the Joint Committee and the ability to seek independent arbitration if the EU does not use good faith in this process.