Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. Jun. 26, 2019 8 min read

So. Am at an event on the Irish Backstop and #Brexit with Arlene Foster @DUPleader Graham Brady and @Andrew_Adonis ....stay's a full house here in Westminster. 1...

We start with @Andrew_Adonis view: @theresa_may did her level best and did the only deal possible on Northern Ireland in respect of #Brexit

Adds that all of the three things borders exist for - tarrifs, regulations, movement of people - none of them apply because of EU membership. All apply when we leave.

Backstop only became controversial when @DUPleader Arlene Foster objected to it. /3

Problem is that Mrs May said there was 'no alternative' but when it was voted down, promptly searched for alternatives.

But when we went to visit these 'invisible' borders (Swiss-EU, Norway-Swedeny) and found they weren't invisible at all . /4

.@Andrew_Adonis says the hunt for Alternative Arrangement is Orwellian, staffed by people like @ShankerSingham1 who have predetermined they exist when - Adonis predicts - they never will. Because a border is either a border or not. /5

Now @ray_basssett ex Irish ambassador to Canada now arguing that @LeoVaradkar can't unilaterally agree a change to backstop; calls on a future British PM to have a political initiatve to create a new initiative to help @LeoVaradkar "get off the hook" he is on now. /6

.@ray_basssett says problem is that "we've all put up red lines" and held the Single Market to be inviolable when its not (eg Canary Islands having not VAT) and says that there will need to be "unique arrangements" for Ireland. /7

.@ray_basssett calls for a 'new British-Irish agreement' that would get rid of the backstop, with central theme that both govts would make the objective of a frictionless border at the centre of it.

If IE govt will have to accept some 'local and minor' changes to Single Mkt. /8

.@ray_basssett says he's "optimistic" because all sides have incentive to deliver a deal.

Boris/Hunt will have to go for 'no deal', the EU wants a deal..and the EU now not wanting UK 'in the tent'...means "everybody is ready for a deal". /9

So @ray_basssett
concludes: "If you broaden the canvas I believe Irish government will swallow a time limit on the backstop"

Now Prof Paul Bew....waves @ShankerSingham1 Alternative Arrangements report at @Andrew_Adonis and chides journalists for not taking it more seriously /11

Then asserts that there are 'two economies' in Ireland, but says you can make a case for single agri-food economy, but the All-Ireland economy doesn't exist. /12

Paul Bew: "The backstop appropriates functions from the Good Friday Agreement..." Arlene Foster @DUPleader nods, emphatically.

Then makes familiar point that GFA constent procedures CAN be used to agree things like SPS regime..../13

Says it will be hard to get @LeoVaradkar to sign up to a time limit, but an agreement that the backstop impinges on the Good Friday Agreement...."an agreement respecting our difficulty on this point would be helpful"./14

Then Paul Bew says "the question is what IS a hard border"...recalls UN resolution 1371 on border security requiring "effective border controls" and says that this trumps GFA..."it's not going to be liberty hall on the border"...and peace process can't remove UN obligation. /15

Quotes backstop citing "normal state functions of the UK must be preserved"...adds 'yes - this means something". /16

Now Sir Graham Brady opens, and welcome @ShankerSingham1 "serious and important" contribution this week on Alternative Arrangements./17

Adds that those "Arrangements" will be fundamental whatever the future shape of the EU-UK future relationship.

Says not all international borders have lots of inspections...quotes port of Bristol man he spoke to who said he ZERO customs officers....all intelligence-led. /18

So @DUPleader nods vigorously to that..and now takes the stage.

Arlene Foster opens saying 'civilised discourse' is possible, noting she's sharing a panel with Andrew Adonis! /19

Says backstop is contrary to Good Friday/Belfast agreement and goes against the principle of consent.

Says Lord Bew analysis is "crtiical in bursting that bubble" around the Irish backstop. /20

Recalls warning @theresa_may in Dec 2017 about paragraph 49..../21

But says that May plouged ahead anyway...says Brady Amendment was a 'huge step forward' because the flaw had been identified and there was a mandate to seek a change to make it acceptable to the HofC/22

Says that Govt failed to enage...but tells @Policy_Exchange audience that we need to 'unlock' the Withdrawal Agreement and get a deal for the whole United Kingdom. /23

She closes by saying that Northern Ireland is 100 years old soon, and we need to look forward to what the *United* Kingdom can achieve in next 100 years.

Concludes with CS Lewis quote "there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind". /24

Now Q&A: @KateEMcCann asks @DUPleader who she backs in Hung v Boris, and if we need to leaev by Oct 31?

"Very important" to leave in Oct 31; ducks the Boris/Hunt Q. Says thats for Graham Brady! /25

Now @steve_hawkes asks why Boris/Hunt be any better?

Says that May failed to push Braid Amendment hard enough, both to Europe and to Dubln.

Says Irish approach has brouht much damage" to relatios since @LeoVaradkar took over. /26

Follow up: is it 'do or die'?

Arlene Foster says "you have to keep no deal on the table to get a better deal...and we shouldn't go for any new extenstions but fix flaws in withdrawal agreement". /27

Could you support a conservative Govt that did go beyond Oct 31 asks ITN

Arlene Foster @DUPleader ducks that one as a "hypothetical". /28

"I have conversations with @Jeremy_Hunt and @BorisJohnson all the time..and I will continue to do so" says @DUPleader - again ducking whether she's got a deal with them. /29

"We believe that post Brexit the union is the most important thing to deliver for all the people of the United Kingdom after Brexit." says @DUPleader Arlene Foster. /30

Now @carolewalkercw asks sir Graham Brady if he thinks Tory MPs would bring the govt down over a no deal. He says it would be a 'bizarre' thing to do given that @jeremycorbyn is waiting in the wings. /31

.@lilleypeter asks Paul Bew what will happen in a 'no deal' on the border.

Paul Bew cites my report saying EU are pushing Irish govt for details - and concludes we are "not quite so far" from a deal as might be assumed. /32

Bew: real Q is if the EU, facing a "disaster" for Irealnd and NI, "why have a terrible mess, why should people lose their jobs when it is not so difficult to put together this [Brady Amendment] compromise". /33

.@Andrew_Adonis says to Bew "this is all fantasy land" the Irish govt and the EU are not going to leave.

Says 'no deal' is remote chance; Parliament will stop it.

Silence at this @Policy_Exchange event. /34

.@ray_basssett says he disagrees. Says politicians need to surive, and delay will not enabel Labour/Tory to survive...and Ireland will face disaster.

So says "give people cover withdraw from this situation"..and Irish government to pull back from binding the UK in perpetuity.35

.@ray_basssett concludes Irish govt needs change to walk back from backstop

Suggestion George Mitchell might be man to defuse things? /36

This is the @Policy_Exchange paper by Paul Bew that @DUPleader is saying contains core idea of solution to backstop deal /37 

.@ray_basssett was a "political maneouvre" designed to trap the UK and thinks Ireland should have had nothing to do with it. /38

Arlene: Says @LeoVaradkar has placed relatnship with EU above that of UK and NI "and I profoundly regret that"

Arlene on talks in Beflast to restore institutions: @DUPleader "Am I hopeful, yes I am hopeful, because we need to get devolution back...I am 'quietly optimistic' that we might see some movement' /40

Interesting, @DUPleader Arlene Foster says that 'principle of consent' only applies to NI place in UK/Ireland and "we shouldnt mix up" issue of brexit/backstop./41

Right. That's your lot. 42/ENDS

You can follow @pmdfoster.


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