The New Brexit Deal Without An Irish Backstop, Second Referendum Or A No Deal Scenario

Alternative Arrangements Media Summary & Contact details media-release

Part 1: The Present Brexit Synopsis

Since the EU Referendum in June 2016 The Conservative British Government under Premier Theresa May has maintained its commitment to negotiate a ‘ Transitional Brexit Deal ‘ that would uphold the will of the electorate. The end product of the negotiations was a compromise deal structured to be all things to all men. On January 15th 2019 the deal was rejected from across the political spectrum by 68% of the members of the British Parliament.

The main stumbling block was the EU’s insistence that to maintain the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent peace in Northern Ireland that had to be an ‘Irish Backstop’. The EU is not perfect and like any institution it can be criticized and reformed but it’s continued existence will ensure that Europe does not have to endure the historic evils of Napoleon Hitler and Mussolini. In contemporary terms It also has been instrumental bringing Eastern European countries in from the cold and in maintaining the freedom of all people from the former Yugoslavia. On that basis the EU’s red line to stop the establishment of a divisive visible hard border between Northern Ireland and Eire is well founded. 

To avoid this the EU wanted the UK Goverment to agree to an Irish Backstop that would have given the EU, a foreign power, potentially enduring control over Northern Ireland which is a integral part of  the UK Sovereign State. This was not acceptable to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party who hold the balance of power in the British Parliament and support the minority governing British Conservative Party. The DUP though co-founders of, and committed to, the Good Friday Peace Agreement were not looking to have their constitutional rights exported to Brussels. That was not in the referendum and in NI the majority of voters opted to remain in the EU anyway.. It was also not acceptable to many members of other parties who shared the view that Northern Ireland should maintain the same rights, and be treated in the same way, as other regions in the UK.

Other factors included divisions within each of the main political parties and the fact that the compromises on many issues including free movement of labour, customs union membership and legal jurisdictions satisfied neither the 51.9% who voted to ‘leave’ or the EU or the 48.1% who voted to remain in the EU.

The importance of the Transitional Deal is overstated and very misleading as it can be inadvertently interpreted or deliberately promoted as the basis for building or developing a ‘Final Agreement’ at the end of ‘Transition Period’. A component contained in a transitional agreement is not legally binding beyond the transitional period and may not be included in the final agreement. This means that Britain is not going to be given a free lunch or free trade deal by the EU who will not sacrifice their principals such as free movement of labour if Britain wants to be in the single market and a tariff free customs union. Thus the current proposal to halt the free movement of labour into the UK may only be temporarily. Add to these factors that European Laws will have to underpin any agreement (as in Norway and Switzerland for example and that any agreement is unlikely to result in resolving the current  issues on the Irish border the road ahead is littered with pot holes that have to navigated around. In some respects the hysteria about the Transitional Agreement is over the top. 

There are increasingly calls by politicians of all party’s, particularly ‘remainers’  for a second referendum. This is because according to some opinion polls it would overturn the first referendum result as the electorate would be better informed about the consequences of leaving the European Union.  The merits of a second referendum at the moment are negligible as there is no support for the Transitional Proposal or any details on an eventual Final Agreement. Heaven knows what the question on the ballot paper would be!  If a second referendum was held it would undermine the democratic principal of holding a referendum in the first place. If the second referendum resulted in a majority vote for the UK remaining in the EU Britain the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ camps would have scored a 1-1 draw. Then because of the intense feelings in all quarters there would be calls for a third referendum to establish the outcome on the best of three basis.  

There are several options open to Britain could and no doubt it carry on holding referendums on a Wimbledon tie break basis but none of the options being touted will unite the country. The fact is that any referendum result on the options being considered is likely to disenfranchise 40 – 49% of the national electorate. The additional possibility is that another no vote or clumsy exit from the EU might result in the United Kingdom breaking up with Scotland at least becoming an independent state.  This could happen as the proposed deal has been rejected and there is no realistic Plan B and the he days of grace are expiring.

The ‘Alternative Arrangement’ Brexit Deal With No Irish Backstop, No 2nd Referendum Or No Deal Scenario As England & Wales Only Opt Out Of The EU

If the British Government and the European Government ‘think outside the box’ there is no need for a border in Ireland or a backstop in Irish Sea.  Neither would there be a need for second referendum based on the Transitional Agreement which apart from being a fudge from the EU and UK voters perspectives does not reflect the outcome of the 2016 referendum irrespective of whether a voter wanted to leave or remain in the EU. 

Because the British Parliament has refused to ratify the proposed ‘transitional’ Brexit agreement between the EU and UK the British Government has decided to ask the EU to renegotiate some aspects of the deal.

The biggest stumbling block is the EU’s red line that there has to be an Northern Irish Backstop to ensure the peace process in the province continues. The British Government and many MPs believe the existence of an Irish backstop would undermine their political ideologies which are focused on preserving the integrity, sovereignty and unity of the United Kingdom. This means that the dogma and idiosyncrasies of British politics conflict with the moral commitment to the people of Northern Ireland by the other 27 countries in the EU which is not going to change.

The 2016 referendum resulted in 53.3% of voter in England and 52.5% of voters in Wales voting to leave the EU.   In contrast 55.7% of voters in Norther Ireland and 62.0% of voters in Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

The EU backstop proposal for Northern Ireland recognized that the country’s interests were best served by an agreement tailored for that region.In so doing (probably inadvertently) it set a precedent for establishing a regional solution to the NI future relationship with the EU which complied with the local outcome of the referendum. 

Diplomatically this was badly handled by negotiators on both sides as it singled out Northern Ireland from the other Constituent States off the United Kingdom which the Democratic Ulster Party understandably objected to.   It also alienated the Scottish electorate who voted by an even greater percentage to remain in the EU and were offered no regional concessions.  The net effect of this situation is that the will of the majority of voters in Northern Ireland and Scotland and their future relationship with the EU  is being determined by the electorate of England and Wales who voted to leave. Such impositions are not democratic and the backstop proposal challenges if not removes British Sovereignty over Northern Ireland. 

All these issues can be resolved if the precedent set by the EU in respect of North Ireland is developed to allow NI and Scotland to remain in the EU.  This would on a regional basis  democratically recognize the outcome  of the 2016 referendum  eliminate the need to hold a second referendum and remove the need for a backstop and British Sovereignty over Northern Ireland would not be jeopardized. . The only land border would be between England and Scotland which is 154 km/(96 miles and less than a third of the distance of the Irish border which is 499 km 310 miles and logistically more challenging. 

The wishes of the majority of voters in  the regions of England and Wales to leave the EU could be then be renegotiated and upheld perhaps with the the inclusion of a process which would enable  either region or both to return to the EU in the future. 

Under this type of arrangement England and Wales would not have the advantages of the single market or be obliged to comply with the free movement of labour regulations. And the UK financial contributions to the EU would fall very significantly .as the combines populations of England and Wales are several times lower than the combined populations of Norther Ireland and Scotland. 

The economic benefits to Northern Ireland and Scotland could be substantial as many British businesses who do not want to be forced move from England and Wales to move to Europe will have two other options.  These options may appeal to staff who want to stay and in the UK and would not want to relocate abroad for a host of different reasons.  The Inland Revenue would still have the benefit of the income from these companies wherever they were in the UK which otherwise they might not collect. 

This proposal is an outline of how the present Transitional Agreement might be modified to remove the backstop & reflect the result of the 2016 referendum more democratically without undermining the present sovereignty of the United Kingdom.

Most importantly the European Commission would no longer have grounds to insist on the Irish backstop and would happily remove it if Ireland and Scotland’s present status as EU members continued.

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