08:43 GMT04 December 2020
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    With a key cabinet meeting regarding the Northern Irish border being delayed today, it seems that Theresa May’s Brexit plans are continuing to unravel, despite some progress having seemingly been made in recent weeks.

    Is a no deal departure from the EU now a certainty? And what impact would the implementation of the backstop plan have on the Irish peace agreement? Sputnik spoke with Iain Begg, Professor at the European Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science for more insight on the issue.

    Sputnik: How can the Irish border issue be sorted out and do you think that the EU is deliberately making it hard for the UK in the negotiations, by asserting that Northern Ireland must remain in a customs union in the event of a no deal outcome?

    Iain Begg: When you have three demands; only two of which can be realised at any time, you inevitably face a complication. Those three demands are, Britain leaving the customs union, not having a customs border in Ireland and not having a customs border in the Irish Sea.
    You can have two out of those three, but not all three simultaneously and that’s the basis of the problem.

    Is the EU marking it hard for the UK? To a limited extent; but it’s forgotten that Ireland is a member of the EU and Ireland is deeply concerned about this, therefore what the EU is taking is Ireland’s position on this and it’s one that is incompatible with the British position
    The solution is likely to involve shading one of the three demands.

    To take a different example; Switzerland has borders with several EU countries, Austria, Italy, France and Germany and there is no visible border when you go from Switzerland into the European Union, even though Switzerland formally is outside the customs union, and that’s because there is trust.

    What you need to do to solve the Irish border problem is have a system that both sides can trust, and that’s where we’re stuck; we don’t quite have that trust or maybe the background technology to enable that trust to be achieved.

    Sputnik: Would a no deal Brexit be better or worse than the Chequers plan?

    Iain Begg: No deal has all kinds of ramifications that have not been fully worked through; we don’t know where we’d stand with no deal. At least we do know where we’d stand with Chequers, although I’d say that Chequers is already dead in the water.

    Sputnik: We’ve seen a lot of criticism towards the Conservatives coming from Labour in recent weeks, but would they have handled the Brexit negotiations any differently?

    Iain Begg: They might have handled them differently, but it’s by no means obvious that the Labour Party is any more united in what it wants from the Brexit negotiations, than the Conservatives. We’ve seen the leadership of the Labour Party's longstanding opposition to the EU, whereas many in the Labour parliamentary party are in favour of staying in the EU.

    They would like ideally to reverse the Brexit decision. The membership of the Labour Party is more divided; the voters of the Labour Party, who particularly in the north of England, signalled their strong opposition to the EU in the Brexit vote, so there are incompatibilities across the spectrum in the Labour Party as well.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Iain Begg and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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