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How Theresa May's winning backstop deal was done… and why Geoffrey Cox blew it apart • RTE
Tony Connelly, for the Irish radio station:
<p>The [UK]Attorney General [Geoffrey Cox, who provides legal advice to the UK government] was already on the defensive. The UK had had to drop the very public demands for a unilateral exit clause or expiry date. Cox therefore wanted independent arbitration to be the next best thing as a way out.

He first suggested the arbitration be outside the dispute mechanisms already enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement. That was immediately rejected by Barnier.

He [Cox] then made further arguments which baffled and irritated the EU side. 

First, he suggested that if the trade negotiations broke down then it would, by default, mean the backstop applying indefinitely. Since Article 50 was designed to be a temporary state, that meant the EU was breaking its own rules.

Cox then argued that Northern Ireland citizens would be subject to single market rules, yet not represented in the European Parliament or in ministerial meetings. The backstop was therefore in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Combine those arguments and the UK should be entitled to walk away from the backstop. EU officials were in disbelief. 

"There was a fundamental disagreement," recalls one official, briefed on the dinner. "It wasn’t on the principle of arbitration. It was on what the arbitration can cover, and what comes next."

The mood in Brussels darkened. Cox and Steve Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, returned to London. Sabine Weyand continued technical talks with Olly Robbins, her opposite number. </p>


Cox was both negotiating, and declaring what the negotiations meant - "marking his own homework", as one MP put it. I suspect he thought his ECHR twist was very clever and would show those Brussels suits who was the smartest person in the room. Turns out, that didn't really matter. The full story also shows how much high-level negotiation is now done via Twitter, which is quite weird.

American readers will probably find this impenetrable. You're not alone, folks.
brexit  backstop  ireland 
march 2019 by charlesarthur

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