After a fun morning of back and forth, here is the government’s ‘time-limited’ backstop proposal:
The UK is clear that the temporary customs arrangement, should it be needed, should be time limited, and that it will be only in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced. The UK is clear that the future customs arrangement needs to deliver on the commitments made in relation to Northern Ireland. The UK expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest. There are a range of options for how a time limit could be delivered, which the UK will propose and discuss with the EU.
“Expects” is not a legal time limit. This is a fudge of a fudge of a fudge that implies the government won’t keep us in a customs union after December 2021, but does not legally rule it out. Yet again this government refuses to make a decision, refuses to show leadership and refuses to tell the EU what we want from Brexit. DD can try to claim victory and it is true this fudge is a humiliation for May and Robbins. It is remarkable Robbins is keeping his job after attempting to ram through the original plan behind Brexiters’ backs. But this is not a win for DD or Brexiters. Number 10 clearly wants to put us on a course for close alignment to the EU, which quite possibly will end up with us inside a customs union, and had to be forced under threat of resignation even to come up with this dreary fudge. This is all very depressing. It has never been truer that, as May once said, “you can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit…”