Brexit negotiations faltered time and again over the backstop, before a deal was thrashed out with the EU. The issue of the backstop and the Northern Ireland border are inherently complicated, wrapped up in political and economic sensitivities. But we can cut through the political jargon and try to wrap our heads around this issue which has caused so much trouble.
Before we delve in, it’s important to remember two things: Firstly, if the Brexit deal is voted through on December 11, this doesn’t mean negotiations are done.
All that really does is reset the clock to allow more time for the nitty gritty details of a deal to be finalised, which will be done during the two-year transition period after the March 29 official Brexit deadline.
Secondly, we need to remember that the backstop, according to the Government, is a “last resort,” is not desirable, and will ONLY be enforced if a better solution has not presented itself during the two years of transition.
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Brexit backstop explained: The issue of the backstop and the Northern Ireland border are complex (Image: Getty)
The backstop is a sort of safety net or insurance policy.
The backstop is meant to ensure no matter what happens with the rest of the negotiations, there won’t be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
So, even if the rest of the UK leaves the EU with no trade or security arrangements, there won’t suddenly be border checks and restrictions on the island of Ireland.
At present, goods and services are traded between the two jurisdictions with few restrictions.
As the UK and Ireland are currently part of the EU single market and customs union, products do not need to be inspected for customs and standards, but after Brexit, all that could change.
Brexit backstop explained: The backstop is a sort of safety net or insurance policy. (Image: Getty)
The two main spheres of sensitivity around the backstop can be broken into two main themes: political and economic.
The basic building block of peace in Northern Ireland - the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - removed security checkpoints from the Irish border and made it practically invisible.
Before this agreement, a long period of conflict, had run since the 1920s, known in the latter half of the 20th century as The Troubles.
The Troubles was a period of violence between two groups - Republicans (who wanted Northern Ireland to re-join the Republic) and Loyalists