Shankar Singham, director of International Trade at the Institute for Economic Affairs, has sought to dispel a number of myths that continue to surround the Irish backstop issue. In a piece for the Times, Singham addresses five claims that have been circulated; claims that have been allowed to frame Brexit negotiations and threaten its implementation.
He highlights that the backstop is not an insurance policy, as it has been described, but actually a misleading strategy that could stifle the benefits of Brexit. Singham notes how the EU would be comfortable with this plan; therefore dis-incentivising them to negotiate a deal with the UK. The backstop could imply that, in order to uphold the Union, we remain part of the Customs Union and Single Market.
It has also been asserted that the backstop is vital to ensure that no hard border is created on the island of Ireland. The UK government has said this is this is false. The EU are able to do the same, but stubbornly resist. The Institute of Economic Affairs has presented its credible alternative proposal, entitled Plan A+. The report shows that, with the use of existing technology, no physical infrastructure will be needed on the border.
— Shanker Singham (@ShankerASingham) October 11, 2018
Singham contests that the backstop is the only way we can solve the Irish border issue. The EU has agreed to work with the existing technical solutions, outlined in Plan A+, in order to protect the integrity of the single market. If both parties are able to avoid red lines and agree a set of solutions, then there is no need for a backstop.
It has been argued that the backstop will not affect the possibility of independent trade and regulatory policy. According to Singham, it does. In fact, it will do damage to the UK’s reputation – as countries will fear negotiating with a nation that is tied into the customs union and single market indefinitely. They will put the UK to one side and move forward in areas where certainty can be guaranteed.
Finally, Singham disagrees that agreement over a backstop will inject momentum into the negotiations and get a better deal with the EU. This will simply put the EU in a dominant position – giving them the optimism to obtain further concessions from the UK – leaving us as a ruler-taker.