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May 'too pliant' in agreeing Brexit backstop, claims Brady

Sir Graham Brady
Sir Graham Brady

By David Hughes

Alternatives to the Brexit backstop arrangement will not completely "solve" the Irish border issue, but should still be a priority for any new prime minister, Sir Graham Brady said.

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The influential former chairman of the 1922 Committee, whose amendment calling for alternative arrangements was backed by the Commons in January, suggested Theresa May had not tried hard enough to secure changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Sir Graham said the Government had been "too pliant" in accepting the European Union's argument that the backstop was the only way to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

Writing in a foreword to a report by the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, Sir Graham said Mrs May's government had been "too slow" in looking at technology to help mitigate the effects of border checks.

"The election of a new leader now presents an opportunity to return to the negotiations and secure an agreement that is acceptable to both the House of Commons and the EU," Sir Graham said.

The new prime minister should recognise that the backstop "is a threat to the Good Friday Agreement, rather than its guarantor", he continued.

"Secondly, they must at once ensure work on alternative arrangements, including the technical solutions, is given (long overdue) priority."

Alternative arrangements would be needed under a no-deal situation or a Canada-style free trade agreement.

Sir Graham said "a number of leading international customs and border experts insist that technology already exists that could considerably mitigate the effects of any future friction on the border".

He pointed out that checks already exist: "After all, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland operate in a different monetary system, different VAT regimes, operate under different legal regimens, and there are pre-existing problems over things like smuggling and security. The scale and functioning of such checks is the real issue here."

Sir Graham insisted that with "sufficient preparations and goodwill" from all sides "a way round this impasse can be found".

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