The UK Government’s proposal to the EU for a new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland was presented on 2 October 2019.
The Prime Minister wrote to Donald Tusk on 19 August 2019 setting out the UK’s position on the renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement, as well as this government’s desired final destination for a long-term relationship with the EU. Since then, the government has pursued discussions with the European Union on alternatives to the previous Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, the so-called ‘backstop’.
This letter to the President of the European Commission and accompanying explanatory note, sent on 02 October 2019, set out the government’s proposal for a new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
A Fair and Reasonable Compromise: UK Proposals for a new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland
There is now very little time in which to negotiate a new Agreement between the UK and the EU under Article 50. We need to get this done before the October European Council.
This Government wants to get a deal, as I am sure we all do. If we cannot reach one, it would represent a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible. Our predecessors have tackled harder problems: we can surely solve this one.
Both sides now need to consider whether there is sufficient willingness to compromise and move beyond existing positions to get us to an agreement in time. We are ready to do that, and this letter sets out what I regard as a reasonable compromise: the broad landing zone in which I believe a deal can begin to take shape.
Our proposed compromise removes the so-called “backstop” in the previous Withdrawal Agreement. I have explained the difficulties with this elsewhere, including the fact that it has been rejected three times by the UK Parliament. Equally importantly in this context, the backstop acted as a bridge to a proposed future relationship with the EU in which the UK would be closely integrated with EU custom arrangements and would align with EU law in many areas. That proposed future relationship is not the goal of the current UK Government. The Government intends that the future relationship should be based on a Free Trade Agreement in which the UK takes control of its own regulatory affairs and trade policy. In these circumstances the proposed “backstop” is a bridge to nowhere, and a new way forward must be found.
Accordingly we are now proposing a new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. We are delivering the draft legal text of this Protocol to Task Force 50 today. I attach an explanatory note giving further detail of the proposal and I am making this letter and that note public today.
It is based around five elements: