"There's No Way Out": Johnson Slams "Undemocratic" Irish Backstop In Letter To European Council

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as barely been in office a month, and he's already convinced some Britons that he's ready to take the UK out of the EU, with or without an interim trade deal to soften the blow.

On the other side of the Atlantic, President Trump has pledged to cobble together a trade deal to help bolster Johnson's popularity should he need to call for an early general election to try and bolster his party's mandate (the Tories and their coalition control the Commons by one measly vote).  This past week, Johnson has generated headlines for sparring with his Irish counterpart (Leo Varadkar), and with the pound still sliding as investors wager that, yes, Johnson is serious about 'no deal' and his 'Operation Yellowhammer' isn't a bluff.

This week, Johnson is focusing on negotiations with the European Council and European Commission before both bodies change over.

And in a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk calling for the Irish backstop to be scrapped. Several key passages were

“The treaty provides no sovereign means of existing unilaterally and affords the people of Northern Ireland no influence over the legislation which applies to them. That is why the backstop is undemocratic.”

As the BBC's economics and business editor John Campbell explains, the Irish Backstop

Boris Johnson's focus here is the backstop. That's the insurance policy - agreed by Theresa May and the European Union (EU) - to avoid a hard Irish border.

It would come into effect after Brexit if the UK and the EU failed to reach a trade deal that would keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as open as it is now.

It would keep:

  • the whole of the UK in a customs union with the EU

  • Northern Ireland aligned to some rules of the EU single market

Mr Johnson identifies two problems with this.

First, the UK could not unilaterally bring the backstop to an end, unless it could be proven that the EU was acting in bad faith. In March, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, concluded if the UK and EU negotiated in good faith but still could not reach an agreement on their long-term relationship, the UK would have "no internationally lawful means" of leaving the backstop without EU agreement.

Secondly, there is the issue of EU single market rules continuing to apply in Northern Ireland. Those rules are set in Brussels, rather than Belfast, meaning Northern Ireland voters would have no direct influence. However, the EU can point to a specialised committee of UK and EU representatives that would be set up to oversee the implementation of the backstop and review cross-border cooperation. Reporting to that committee would be a working group to act as a forum for consultation. And taken together, these arrangements could be interpreted as giving the UK a decision-shaping role in regard to EU rules covered by the backstop.

Read Johnson's letter below: