Nick Timothy has some provocative arguments in his article titled: “Brussels’ behaviour shows it can’t really want a deal – otherwise why would it negotiate in such bad faith?” (paywalled link). He demonstrates this ‘bad faith’ by relating it to the backstop negotiations:
“Boris Johnson’s proposition to Brussels last week might have been rejected, but it succeeded in one important respect. It demonstrated that the European Union is not negotiating in good faith. The EU, it constantly tells us, “is committed to respecting the territorial integrity and constitutional order of the UK.” Yet its response to Britain’s proposal – which would effectively keep Northern Ireland aligned with single market rules but allow it to leave, with the rest of the United Kingdom, the EU’s customs union – shows Brussels is doing little more than keeping up diplomatic appearances.” (paywalled link)
Quoting Varadkar, Nick Timothy comes right to the crux of the matter:
“[…] according to Ireland and the EU, Northern Ireland cannot be allowed to leave the single market or the customs union. In effect, Northern Ireland – alone, or with the rest of the UK – cannot leave the European Union at all.
This is an affront to democratic values in more ways than one. It is an attempt to defy the UK’s decision, three years ago, to leave the EU and its laws and institutions. And it is a plan to trap Northern Ireland and perhaps the whole UK in Europe’s legal order in perpetuity, granting Brussels and foreign governments – including Dublin – a greater say over many of Northern Ireland’s laws than the governments in Belfast and in London.” (paywalled link)
That attitude by Ireland and indeed by the EU is emphasised in the next paragraphs:
“For this reason, the European position poses a serious danger to the Northern Irish peace process. The Irish government – abetted by European commissioners, diplomats and ministers – has sought to weaponise the peace process against Britain. Yet it is not Britain but Ireland and the EU that are breaching both the letter and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
The peace process has, throughout its existence, been based on the principle of consent. As Lord Trimble, one of the main architects of the Good Friday Agreement, has explained, consent in the Northern Irish context means the consent of the British and Irish governments, the political parties of Northern Ireland and its people. The backstop so beloved by Dublin lacks legitimacy because it was conceived quite deliberately without this consent.
The Prime Minister has proposed that his solution should be made subject to the consent of the Northern Irish Assembly, reaffirmed every four years. But Dublin and Brussels have been explicit in their rejection of his attempt to achieve democratic consent. “ (paywalled link)
Timothy explains what this wrecking attempt by both Ireland and the EU actually entails:
“Their pious references to the sanctity of the Good Friday Agreement are supposed to sound broadminded and responsible as they argue that customs checks of any kind jeopardise the peace process. Yet when it comes to Ireland’s own Brexit planning, Dublin argues that Ireland’s membership of the EU is more important than the absence of the customs border that is supposedly vital for peace. “Ireland is committed to protecting the integrity of the single market and customs union,” Dublin’s planning papers state, “membership of which is a core element of our economic strategy and has been good for Irish business.”
In other words, if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, the Republic is prepared to introduce border checks with Northern Ireland in order to protect the single market and Ireland’s place within it. And herein lies yet another double standard. “In planning for the real possibility of a no deal Brexit,” Ireland’s planning papers say, “the Government’s approach will continue to be guided by … there being no Hard Border.” And how will they achieve this? Simon Coveney explains, “Ireland will have a responsibility to protect its own place in the EU single market and that will involve some checks. But … we will try and do it, obviously, away from the border.” (paywalled link)
Ah – so checks away from the border are possible in case of a ‘No Deal Brexit’ according to the Irish Government, but cannot be implemented when part of Johnson’s proposal. Double standards? More like obfuscation to prevent the UK leaving the EU, methinks! Timothy continues:
“On occasion, the Europeans have also confirmed that checks can be carried out away from the border. EU officials have said: “controls have to be done where they belong but [that] doesn’t mean we’d want to see visible infrastructure.” […] In sum, the EU is prepared to allow a no-deal Brexit – which will bring about a customs border between the UK and Ireland – because it insists on the backstop, which is supposed to prevent such a customs border. And in the event of no deal, it will use a combination of policy and technology to avoid a hard border in Ireland, which is precisely the solution proposed by the UK, and yet is rejected by the EU as unworkable.” (paywalled link)
That truly defies logic – so beloved by M Barnier. It shows that the negotiations about the Backstop are another stellar ‘smoke-and-mirrors’ performance. I only wonder why it is that our negotiators are still trying to square this circle which so obviously has already a solution in the real world. Nick Timothy concludes:
“And what is the motive for all this? Do the Europeans want, as Varadkar implied this week, to stop Brexit altogether? Do they want to force the reunification of Ireland against the will of the Northern Irish people? Or do they want to keep the UK trapped in the EU’s laws and institutions for good? Whatever the answer, Boris has established that the Europeans are not negotiating in good faith.“ (paywalled link)
That, black-on-white, is the take-home message! Surely something we can and should use when talking to hard-core Remainers!