Remove the backstop?

Tories want to bring in "alternative arrangements"

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Should the backstop be dropped from Brexit talks?

By Joe Harker

The plan for the government's next steps in Brexit negotiations is known as the Malthouse Compromise, named after housing minister Kit Malthouse. It gained the support of Tory Leavers and Remainers, giving prime minister Theresa May control of her own party once again.

The Malthouse Compromise asks for two major changes to the withdrawal agreement May secured with the EU in November. The first asks for an extension of the transition period to the end of 2021, meaning the UK would have to pay more towards the EU budget.

The second asks for changes to the backstop, the relationship of last resort if the UK and EU cannot agree on a future circumstances before the end of the transition period. The prime minister will attempt to negotiate "alternative arrangements" to replace the backstop.

The Claim:

Supporters of Hard Brexit in the Tory party have said they will only support a withdrawal agreement that scraps the backstop, reports The Guardian.

To pass a deal through the House of Commons the prime minister needs to offer something there is a majority for and the easiest way to do that is to have her own party onside. Without the support of Hard Brexit Tories she will struggle to pass any sort of withdrawal agreement.

Steve Baker MP, vice chair of the European Research Group, said the Malthouse Compromise is "the only game in town" that would have the support of Tory MPs who wanted a Hard Brexit.

Baker is one of the MPs who is holding talks with Brexit secretary Steve Barclay over what the "alternative arrangements" might be. A time limited backstop has been suggested, as has one the UK could exit unilaterally.

Home secretary Sajid Javid has suggested "existing technology" could replace the backstop.

The Counter Claim:

Sabine Weyand, the EU's deputy Brexit negotiator, has said the technology to conduct checks on people and goods while keeping the Irish border open doesn't exist yet and won't for several years.

The EU has also repeatedly rejected the idea of a time limited backstop or one with an exit clause for the UK. Their position is that the backstop will not be renegotiated, being "part and parcel" of the withdrawal agreement.

Any sort of mandate given to the prime minister by her win in the House of Commons runs into problems in Brussels. The EU argues that the Tories have united around a plan that will not work and are reportedly trying to stop the UK from getting carried away with "magical thinking".

May has said she will battle for changes to the backstop she negotiated back in November, arguing that she will present new arguments to the EU. Thus far she hasn't suggested anything beyond a time limit or an exit clause, both of which the EU has repeatedly rejected.

The Facts:

Existing border technology would not be able to ensure a frictionless border, reports BBC Reality Check. The EU's largest border is between Norway and Sweden, with the former country being in the single market but not the EU.

The border between the two countries is one of the most technologically advanced in the world, cars pass through unmanned checkpoints equipped with cameras that use number plate recognition. They use computer systems allowing goods to be declared to customs before they leave the warehouse.

However, lorries transporting goods have to pass through manned border posts and undergo physical checks. On average this takes 20 minutes per lorry and is as open and quick as can be managed with current technology. The Norway-Sweden border also relies on high levels of trust and similar standards of goods.

The EU has said there is no way to have a border with a non member state without some checks and controls. Certain products crossing borders legally require physical inspection so there would have to be some border posts and lorries stopped.

They say if the UK will not stay in the customs union then the backstop must be part of the withdrawal agreement. The alternative is no longer having an open border in Ireland.

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