My appologies to you non anglophiles out there another post on Brexit. I keep hearing the word “backstop” in regards to Brexit so I decided to look into the meaning of it. The following is what I found out
As you all know mainland Britain is an island so the mechanics of separating from the customs union of the EU, although inconvenient, will be fairly easy, because all cars, trucks and containers have to be ferried, “chunneled” or shipped across the English Channel or the Atlantic. So there is, by geography, a “hard” border between mainland UK and Europe. That does not apply across the Irish Sea on the Island of Ireland, there is a land border there between Northern Ireland and Eire. Northern Ireland consists of 6 of the 9 counties of Ulster. Its demographic is made up these days by roughly 45% Catholic, 50% Protestant, 5% other faiths. The Protestants are fiercely loyal to Britain and the Queen, the Catholics would mostly like to see a united Ireland as one country (run by eurocrats in Brussels strangely enough). The border between the two countries had always been a bit of a problem. The British created a “hard” border in the 70’s to try and stop arms being brought into N. Ireland. So stringent checks by British soldiers every time people crossed the border which was hated by Catholics and Protestants alike.
At the conclusion of the”Troubles” after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the border between the 2 countries disappeared, both countries were part of the European Economic Community (EEC) a tariff free customs union, so trade could happen unhindered. This proceeded the EU which is a customs and political union.
The “backstop” is part of the negotiations that have occurred between Theresa May and Hans Juncker European Commissioner.
In the thwarted leave agreement reached between Theresa May and the EU, N. Ireland would stay within the European customs union separate from Britain. Most Protestants believe that this would be the first step to N. Ireland becoming part of Eire. The right of centre Protestant DUP has 12 MPs from N. Ireland and after the last election are propping up Theresa May’s conservative majority government in the House of Commons. They will never agree to the “backstop”. The EU has dug its heels in on this point and will not agree to a deal without it. The EU has threatened to create a hard border between the 2 countries again after Brexit which is not acceptable to anyone in Ireland. Britain’s Leavers either want a free trading zone between the 2 countries free of European interferance or WTO rules until a trade deal is sorted out.
Nothing is simple in this divorce.