Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. Apr. 23, 2019 3 min read

So. IDS and fellow Brexiteers are back punting the Malthouse compromise...and @theresa_may has "reluctantly" agreed to look again per @tnewtondunn

Totally mad? Well IDS makes one good point. A quick #Brexit thread.

First, lets take the 'totally mad' approach... which @Jack_Blanchard_ sums up rather beautifully here. And on the idea of a negotiation in three weeks, he's totally right.

So where does IDS have a point? /2

It's here, in the highlighted portion of the Sun story - it's the dirty open secret about the Irish backstop (hugely overlooked in Brussels and Dublin) which is that in practice, it's hard to see how it gets implemented. /3

The backstop is not a finished article.

It necessarily leaves friction GB-EU and will still require tech and infrastructure to work GB-NI.

How realistic is it that UK government would actually implement all this, to create a 'temporary' solution no-one wants? /4

Not very, I supsect...but it's at this point that IDS and the Malthouse gang make the wrong deductions about the EU's willingness and desire to seek 'alternative arrangements' by 2020 (as @NickyMorgan01 points out)..../5

The EU *will* demand workable solutions.

Think back to DEC when May asked for legal confirmation of that 'arrangement' by 2020 (to obviate backstop) and could not provide a decent answer. She was, to quote @JunckerEU "nebulous".

Well that aint gonna cut it. /6

So when EU talks about 'alternative arrangements' means something that works. And that is going to be built (sorry, IDS and co) around an all-UK customs union, as the May backstop (built to UK specfications) makes perfectly clear. /7

Because the flaw in the IDS argument is that if the Irish backstop wouldn't work in practice, why the hell does he think Malthouse would work?!?!?

The facts on the ground on that border make it impossible. As I tried to explain (again) last week


Which is more realistic? Real-time vehicle tracking, warehousing set back from Derry border, fingerprint and biometric data, interceptions on cross-border routes?

Or transfering phytosanitary checks in NI ports? Where animal health checks already happen? /9

That, of course, was the original EU proposals which was rejected by @theresa_may for dividing the UK internal market.... fair enough, given her position with DUP and position of Scottish Tories, but that's a UK problem. The EU wants only to protect the EU internal market. /10

FWIW I think UK side of this debate has consistently under-estimated how genuinely exercised EU member states are on this point.

Most don't dont really understand or much care about NI, but it's clear from readouts of meetings the DO care about NI being a lacuna to SM. /11

The upshot of all this?

Well, recalling both sides have an obligation to maintain an open border (and we can all see how rocking politics is getting in NI after Derry shootings) the real-world answers aren't to be found in Malthouse.

However hard IDS and go wish it so.. /12

To recap the obvious...but no such border exists. Not Norway-Sweden, not US-Canada.

And even the @sajidjavid stuff I reported last week can't see an 'invisible' GB-EU border ready by 2030, best case. And that's in a space where there are incentives to make it work./13

The invitations persist for the Malthouse crew to get on the ground and see for themselves...

...but in truth this is as much about keeping the 'one true Brexit' flame alive, as it is about reality. /14

But reality is where it must end up.

Reality of what's negotiable with a bigger partner.

Reality about what tech can achieve.

Reality about economic merits of being out a CU with bloc that takes 48% of your exports.

Until then, we talk amongst ourselves. 15/ENDS

You can follow @pmdfoster.


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