Belfast Telegraph

Backstop danger to Union, claims May’s former aide

Criticism: Nick Timothy
Criticism: Nick Timothy
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Theresa May's former chief of staff has claimed that the border backstop would give Dublin more say than Belfast or London over Northern Ireland's laws and could potentially "destroy the Union".

Nick Timothy also said the previous Prime Minister has left her successor Boris Johnson "in a dreadful position" as he attempts to do a Brexit deal that will resolve the Irish border issue.

Brussels and London remain at loggerheads over the prospect of fresh Brexit negotiations. The UK Government has said any new negotiations must focus on developing an alternative to the withdrawal agreement.

EU leaders, however, insist the deal cannot be reopened but will engage on potential amendments to the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the bloc.

Mr Timothy was Mrs May's joint chief of staff in Downing Street with Fiona Hill. They resigned after the Tories' disastrous 2017 election.

Mrs May had been warned she faced a leadership challenge unless she sacked them.

Writing in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, Mr Timothy said: "The backstop - or the 'anti-democratic backstop' as Boris Johnson calls it - is effectively a customs union.

"It can be applied to the whole of the UK, killing off an independent trade policy, or it can be applied only to Northern Ireland, imposing an internal border between the province and Great Britain.

"Together with its requirement for Northern Ireland to follow EU rules for goods, the backstop would give Europe's capitals - Dublin included - more say than London or Belfast over swathes of laws in Northern Ireland."

"The backstop is therefore not only anti-democratic, it is a monstrosity that would make us a European colony and quite possibly destroy the Union," he warned.

Mr Timothy said Mrs May had viewed Brexit as "a problem to manage and mitigate" and claimed she "broke every rule in the negotiator's handbook".

He added: "She agreed the EU's sequencing of the talks, allowing them to use the Northern Irish border to snare the UK in the backstop.

"She gave up her leverage - on security, on trade deals with other countries, on Britain's so-called divorce bill - in return for nothing.

"And, as the former ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer noted, she negotiated 'on the basis of an EU text', which he called 'a breach of one of the first rules of negotiation'.

"As a result, she has left Boris Johnson in a dreadful position.

"Until now, everybody has focused on the backstop, but if it is ever signed the political declaration will be every bit as problematic.

"If the UK seeks to negotiate a future relationship along lines different to those in the declaration - such as a Canada-style free-trade agreement - the Europeans will insist we are breaching our commitment to negotiate in good faith.

"And our only alternative will be the backstop, from which we will have no legal means of escape."

Echoing Mr Johnson's call that the EU must remove the backstop, Mr Timothy added: "We need to bin the backstop, tear up the treaty and ditch the declaration.

"Otherwise, as Boris knows, lasting subjugation awaits us."

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