Iain Duncan Smith raises concerns about the Northern Ireland backstop and the impact on future negotiations

26th November 2018

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on the negotiations to leave the European Union, Iain Duncan Smith raises genuine concerns held by many people about what would happen if the UK was forced into the backstop and that the UK would therefore be in a weak negotiating position in its efforts to avoid the backstop.

I recognise my right hon. Friend’s genuine endeavours in all these matters, but may I return her to the point about the backstop? Does she recognise the genuine concern held in all parts of the House about what would happen if the UK were to be forced into the backstop? I listened very carefully to her statement, and she said that the UK does not want it and the EU does not want it; we heard the other day that Ireland said that, no matter what agreement was reached, it would never have any hard border. It makes one wonder why it is in the withdrawal agreement at all.

My question for my right hon. Friend is this: if the Government, going down the road to a negotiation, are heading toward that point when the backstop is invoked, does that not mean that Mr Macron is right and we will come under intolerable pressure to agree to almost anything to avoid our entry into what my right hon. Friend rightly says is something we never want to be in?

I recognise the depth of concern that there has been and that remains for some Members of this House about the issue of the backstop, but I disagree with my right hon. Friend about the position that would entail. As I indicated in my statement, largely thanks to my right hon. Friend and our right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), we are in the position of having within the withdrawal agreement the recognition that there could be alternative arrangements to the backstop, or the extension of the implementation period, that would deliver for the border of Northern Ireland.

While I recognise the depth of concern that this is not a situation that the UK wants to be in, nor is it a situation that the European Union wants us to be in. That is because—strange though it may seem to some Members of this House—there are members of the European Union who actively think that the backstop would be a good place for the UK because of its access to the EU markets without having financial obligations and without free movement. That is why they do not want us to be in the backstop either. Neither of us wants to invoke it—the Taoiseach has been clear about that. We want to ensure that the future relationship replaces it and delivers our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland.