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Can someone explain the Irish backstop to me in very simple words?

(494 Posts)
Apolloanddaphne Fri 23-Aug-19 16:34:12

I am an intelligent woman with multiple degrees but i have to confess i have no idea what the back stop is. I am too scared to ask my DH or my friends lest they think i am an imbecile (lighthearted). I have tried googling it to read articles about it but i just don't get it.

One of my friends is Irish and has a piece in a newspaper today related this today. If it comes up in conversation next time i see him i would at least like to be able to say something semi intelligent about it!

Help me please. Use easy words. Thanks.

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Apileofballyhoo Fri 23-Aug-19 16:37:36

Do you know what the Customs Union and Single Market are?

gower4 Fri 23-Aug-19 16:40:00

Do you understand the first point about the border issue?

Apolloanddaphne Fri 23-Aug-19 16:41:40

Best to assume i know nothing.

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Apolloanddaphne Fri 23-Aug-19 16:42:53

Oh god i can feel you all looking at me with horror!

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Labassecour Fri 23-Aug-19 16:45:18

But what is it you don't get?

DH and I were wondering to one another why on earth BBC newscasters were still explaining the backstop on the news this week, as surely anyone who paid any attention to current affairs for the past year has had it explained ad nauseam, but I suppose not...?

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Fri 23-Aug-19 16:45:27

This article is pretty useful (and mercifully short).

Apolloanddaphne Fri 23-Aug-19 16:48:48

I never watch the news and i don't read a paper. I selectively pick out things i want to read from the BBC news app. Politics/economy does not make it onto my pick list.

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leghairdontcare Fri 23-Aug-19 16:48:54

It's not that complicated at all. It's bascially a mechanism that extends regulatory alignment for Northern Ireland beyond the transition period with the aim of avoiding a hard border. If during the transition period (imagine we were at a point in time where it looked like we'd get a transition period) a solution was found to avoid a hard border, the backstop would not be used and Northern Ireland (and the rest of the UK) would move directly to the alternative arrangements. The issue is there are no alternative arrangements, this is probably the best we can come up with but although it avoids a hard border it basically sacrifices British citizens in NI to the brexit gods.

gower4 Fri 23-Aug-19 16:48:56

I started typing it out but ran out of energy (sorry)! Just google Irish backstop! There are loads of explanations online.

You must surely understand the first point about the border though...

MindyStClaire Fri 23-Aug-19 16:52:41

At the minute if you travel between ROI and NI the only clue you're in a different country is the speed limit signs change (kph in ROI, mph in NI).

This is because there is a fully open border for people and goods.

Post Brexit that won't necessarily be the case. People probably won't be a problem because of the Common Travel Area between ROI and the UK (among others). This isn't actually legally confirmed, but it's the case in all likelihood.

However goods are more complicated. If the UK were to stay in the European single market and the customs union, things could continue as they are. This was the soft Brexit you may remember hearing about.

However the UK have decided not to do that. That means at some point there will be different regulations (for example for agriculture) on different sides of the border once the UK decides to deviate from the EU.

The future relationship hasn't actually been decided yet, that's what the two year transition period is for. The backstop originally stated that if the future relationship would necessitate a border, or if no agreement was reached, NI would effectively remain in the single market and customs union (think it's legally a bit more complicated than that, but that's the gist) allowing the border to remain open. This would effectively put a border for goods in the Irish sea, between the island of Ireland and GB.

The UK didn't like the idea of a border between NI and GB (namely, the DUP didn't like it) and so the EU made a huge concession and expanded the backstop to include the whole UK.

If the UK crashes out without a deal, the backstop won't apply and the likelihood is a return to a hard border at some point in the future - maybe not day 1, but it's naive to think it won't happen.

Putting up the border is impractical. There's a couple of hundred crossings, including through people's houses, businesses etc. People work on one side and live on the other, it'd be like putting an international border and customs post between you and your local Tesco. When this was the case before, the British government actually blew up some roads so they couldn't be used as crossings.

And then you have the whole emotional problem of the border, which would take another post just as long and my train is pulling into the station... Suffice to say, a border would mean Bad Things for the peace process.

Apolloanddaphne Fri 23-Aug-19 16:55:32

@leghairdontcare I have read your post and tbh i might as well have been reading it in French. Give me examples if you can? I see things very visually and i have no images in my head to match what you are saying.

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ThisIsNotAIBUPeople Fri 23-Aug-19 16:56:00

@MindyStClaire you have explained it really well, Thank you. OP don't worry I am still not 100% sure and feel like I ought to know in more detail. People being all superior and acting as if you just ought to know are not very helpful @Labassecour hmm

MindyStClaire Fri 23-Aug-19 16:56:20

Do you know anything about the Troubles OP?

Apolloanddaphne Fri 23-Aug-19 16:57:29

I am going somewhere with DH right now. I am going to be brave and ask him!

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Apolloanddaphne Fri 23-Aug-19 16:57:56

I know about the Troubles!

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ColonelCathcart Fri 23-Aug-19 16:58:37

BlackAmericano that is really good thank you.

eddiemairswife Fri 23-Aug-19 17:00:12

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Labassecour Fri 23-Aug-19 17:02:12

My brain glazes over when Ireland is mentioned.

Unfortunately, yours is a surprisingly common attitude in the UK. Hence the current clusterfuck.

MindyStClaire Fri 23-Aug-19 17:03:17

eddiemairswife... Struggling to be polite here. Our very fragile peace is built on acknowledging that half the population see themselves as Irish and the other half British. We are not some problem to be given away.

This whole mess has been caused by successive British governments over literally a hundred years (more, really). You can't now just decide we aren't actually part of the UK afterall. That decision is for the people of Northern Ireland to make - and the people of the Republic of Ireland, who also get a vote on reunification.

zippey Fri 23-Aug-19 17:04:00

The backstop is a complicated concept. Go to YouTube and put in “what is the backstop”. There should be a visual guide explaining hard and soft borders.

From what I understand, the backstop is the EU saying there can’t be a hard border in Ireland, no matter what deal happens with regards to Brexit. But a soft border would mean we are tied to the EU even after Brexit.

Propertyofhood Fri 23-Aug-19 17:05:06

OP: Can someone explain the Irish backstop to me in very simple words?

Reply: It's bascially a mechanism that extends regulatory alignment for Northern Ireland beyond the transition period with the aim of avoiding a hard border.


Labassecour Fri 23-Aug-19 17:06:11

@ThisIsNotAIBUPeople, legitimising ignorance on a major current political issue is not OK. The OP has characterised herself as an intelligent and highly-qualified person -- she presumably doesn't have some kind of additional educational needs which prevent her from understanding something which has been repeatedly explained and debated on all possible forms of media for the past year.

Propertyofhood Fri 23-Aug-19 17:06:43

I understand pretty well about the Northern Ireland issue wrt Brexit, but if someone asked me the question specifically 'what is the backstop' I think I would be pretty stumped to be honest...

ElleDubloo Fri 23-Aug-19 17:08:44

I think it means that Northern Ireland remains part of the customs union, so that there doesn’t have to be border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

I’m not sure though. I’ve tried looking up proper explanations but TBH my mind switches off if I have to read more than three sentences about it.

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