Brexit, Democracy and Peace in Northern Ireland

How to give the people of Northern Ireland a democratic say over the new legal arrangements that will apply to them under the Withdrawal Agreement? Given the deeply divided nature of Northern Irish society, this is a legal, political and constitutional conundrum. The WA, exceptionally for an EU/international treaty, sets out a complex mechanism regulating how the Northern Ireland Assembly may vote in the future to grant or withhold democratic consent to the terms of the WA as it applies to Northern Ireland. However, this mechanism may yet prove to be a recipe for future political conflict.

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An Alternative to the Brexit Backstop: An All-Ireland “Common No-Custom Area” under Art. 24 GATT

In order to resolve the current stalemate in the brexit negotiations, we propose to establish a “Common No-Custom Area” in Ireland applicable only to products originating in either part of the island. This special regime conforms to the Frontier Traffic exception of Art. 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT/WTO) and builds on the “precedent” of Cyprus where a similar regime has been in place since 2004. This practical solution takes into account that a major part of intra-Ireland trade is made up of products originating in either part of the island.

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Why the UK’s Government’s Demands on the Irish Backstop Would Violate the Sovereignty of the EU-27

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the European Council President in a letter for reciprocal ‘binding legal guarantees’ not to put in place infrastructure, checks, or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The significance of this has been amplified by the European Parliament’s resolution that it will not consent to any Withdrawal Agreement without an Irish Backstop, in direct contravention to the UK’s position. This post will argue that the EU legal order places constraints on this option. Ireland would be in breach of EU law if it followed this course, and the EU institutions have no discretion to suspend these legal obligations.

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Schroedinger’s Backstop

Weiler, Sarmiento and Faull suggest that the best way to avoid a no-deal Brexit, even at the 11th hour, would be to adopt “a regime of dual autonomy”. EU officials said that this proposal was "inadequate and nowhere near the landing zone". But we can also entertain the thought that reciprocity or symmetry is indeed a necessary if not a sufficient condition for the backstop compass to lead us to a landing zone. Six ingredients need to be added to the mix, however.

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Backstop Alternatives: Examining the “We Cannot Trust the Brits” Excuse

Last week, together with two colleagues, Daniel Sarmiento and Sir Jonathan Faull, we published a plan which could avoid a no-deal Brexit. It is to one reaction, attributed in the Press to anonymous Commission sources that I wish to react. And I do not do this solely or even mainly in order to defend the viability of our particular Proposal. I do so because I fear that this same reaction of these anonymous EU officials will meet any proposal for "alternative arrangements" to be put on the table by the UK government.

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An Offer the EU and UK Cannot Refuse

The EU reasonably expects a guarantee that Brexit will not compromise the integrity of its customs and regulatory territory. Hence its insistence on the Backstop. The UK reasonably expects a guarantee that it will not be locked into a permanent Customs (and regulatory) Union with the EU. Hence its rejection of the Backstop. The resulting deadlock is hurling both parties into a No-Deal Brexit. This proposal, which includes features which have never been discussed, will guarantee the integrity and autonomy of the EU’s and UK’s respective customs and regulatory territories, and will require neither a Customs Union between the two nor a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

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‘Our Precious Union’: The Backstop and the Constitutional Integrity of the UK

The decision of the Prime Minister Theresa May to stand down if the Parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement has led a number of passionate proponents of Brexit including Boris Johnson to change their view of the deal. Still, the Democratic Unionist Party said on Wednesday that the Brexit deal and in particular the backstop posed ‘an unacceptable threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.’ This is significant not only because the DUP is in a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Government but also because a number of ardent Brexiteers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have said that their stance towards the deal depends on DUP’s position. In light of another meaningful vote, one has to wonder whether the DUP’s fears concerning the threat of the backstop to the constitutional integrity of the UK are justified.

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Wege aus dem Brexit-Chaos: Weshalb die EU die Initiative ergreifen sollte

Das Vereinigte Königreich hat sich seit der Entscheidung für den Brexit im Juni 2016 nicht gerade als Musterbeispiel für gutes Regieren präsentiert. Dennoch: Die EU sollte dem Vereinigten Königreich noch einmal entgegenkommen und ein Angebot machen, das eine Mehrheit für den Ausstiegsvertrag im britischen Unterhaus doch noch ermöglicht. Jetzt ist politische Führung gefragt.

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