Eastwood criticises Jeremy Corbyn over backstop claims

The SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood has criticised the comments of the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn about the Withdrawal Agreement potentially putting a border down the Irish Sea.

In his statement he says;

Jeremy Corbyn’s continued opposition to the draft Withdrawal Agreement, based on the myth that it would create a border down the Irish Sea, is not only wrong, it is disingenuous.

“To be clear, this deal does not involve a customs border in the Irish Sea. There will be additional regulatory checks for some goods coming to Northern Ireland from Britain. There will be none going from Northern Ireland to Britain. This hardly constitutes a ‘border in the Irish Sea’. The business community in Northern Ireland agree that this deal protects them.

“Jeremy’s position on this doesn’t add up. He says he wants to protect Ireland from a hard border but refuses to support the backstop that will prevent it from being necessary.

I read through an article by Katy Hayward and David Phinnemore on the topic of the Northern Ireland protocol and they see it as;

Further addressing unionist concerns is the fact that the Protocol now not only seeks to avoid a hard land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland but also any hardening of the one between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Inevitably this entails maintaining close ties between the UK and the EU. And it is in how to achieve this that the controversy lies for May.

What has provoked the ire of many Brexiteers is that, if it is used, the backstop will see the UK as a whole in a ‘bare bones’ customs union with the EU. May has insisted on this so as to avoid the need for customs checks on the Irish border or within the UK.

In order to meet the challenge of keeping the Irish border as open as possible, the Protocol contains particular provisions relating to Northern Ireland which would effectively see it remain in ‘the’ EU customs union.

They also point out that the problem with most of this is the assumption that we will use the backstop anyway;

Much of the controversy around the backstop assumes that it will be the final landing zone of the UK-EU relationship.

But the Withdrawal Agreement is very clear: the EU and the UK will ‘use their best endeavours’ (Protocol, Article 2(1)) to find agreement by the end of 2020 that avoids the need to trigger the Protocol.

On a role for the institutions here they also note the committee drawn up to implement this;

The Joint Committee may ‘seek an opinion from institutions created by the 1998 Agreement’. Conceived to protect these institutions – the future operation of the Protocol may therefore yet end up being shaped by them.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs