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European Union negotiators have predicted the backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a hard border on Ireland after Brexit, could be in place for over a decade while technological alternatives are developed. Brexiteers rejected Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement three times in Parliament amid fears that the backstop could leave Britain permanently trapped in a customs union with the EU. Despite its stunning defeat, Brussels bureaucrats have ignored the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit and refused to renegotiate the backstop.
EU leaders have instead offered new Prime Minister Boris Johnson the opportunity to tweak the political declaration, the aspirational wish list for the future relationship, to present a clearer path to how the backstop can be avoided.
But Brussels isn’t entirely convinced that so-called alternative arrangements, such as trusted trader systems and high-tech monitoring systems, favoured by Brexiteers will be operational until at least 2030.
Gregor Schusterschitz, Austria’s Brexit point man, told the ZiB 2 news programme: “We have thought about several options of how this Northern Ireland problem can be solved.
“There are basically two options: Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s customs union or all of Great Britain remains in the EU’s customs area.
“This is the only solution to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. There very often is this myth of alternative arrangements that could be found, technical solutions. But, they don’t exist yet – maybe in 10 or 15 years time.
“But the way the situation is right now, there are only those two solutions. And one of the two has to be chosen. We might also prefer a different solution, but we don’t see one and there is nothing coming from Great Britain.”
Despite Mr Johnson insisting that the backstop must go before a Brexit deal can be done with Brussels, EU diplomats and officials don’t believe such a move would win a majority in the House of Commons.
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