06/12/2018

Brexit Legal Advice Warns NI Could Be Alone In Customs Union

Northern Ireland could be the only region in the UK to remain in a customs union with the EU under the backstop terms, the Attorney General has warned.

Geoffrey Cox's full legal advice on Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal agreement was published in full, after the government was found in contempt of parliament for not releasing it earlier.

The backstop is an insurance policy to be agreed by the UK and EU, to avoid a return to a hard border in Ireland. If it was activated, the whole UK would remain in a customs union with the EU.

However, the Attorney General has said that position has the potential to change, because Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be in the union on different legal terms.

The whole of the UK would form a single customs territory with the EU, but Northern Ireland alone would still follow the EU customs code.

The advice from Mr Cox states that, as part of the review mechanism for the backstop, the EU could submit that the Great Britain element of the customs union "should fall away".
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That would leave Northern Ireland alone in a customs union with the EU.

The rest of the legal advice confirms what was already known about Mrs May's deal, including that once a backstop was activated, it would apply until an alternative was found.

This would mean it could "endure indefinitely" despite being temporary, Mr Cox warned.

The DUP has been vocal about its opposition to the deal, and Party Leader Arlene Foster reiterated their contempt for the proposal in a post on Twitter.

She said: "For those supporting the Withdrawal Agreement, please read the clear legal advice from the Attorney General. This is a bad deal for Northern Ireland and the entire United Kingdom. We would be trapped indefinitely."

Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey stated in the House of Lords on Wednesday 05 December that Theresa May has broken her own red lines with a Withdrawal Agreement that "is not the right deal for the country".

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's pro-remain parties, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party have united in their support for the deal and determination to "bank the backstop".



(JG)


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