LONDON—Britain said on March 6 it was pushing forward with plans to find alternative arrangements to eliminate the need for an Irish “backstop” in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, part of a bid to break the impasse weeks before Britain exits the EU.
Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29 but no withdrawal deal is in place after British lawmakers rejected May’s treaty in part due to the backstop, an insurance policy to stop the return of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after Brexit.
British lawmakers want legally binding changes to May’s accord to ensure the backstop would not be indefinite but European Union officials said talks in Brussels on March 6 had made no headway and no solution was in sight.
Both pro-Brexit and pro-EU supporters in May’s Conservative Party have backed a proposal to find alternative arrangements to the backstop and Britain’s Brexit department said it would establish three advisory groups as part of a joint UK-EU effort to develop these.
“There is clear support for finding alternative arrangements to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland,” a spokesman for the Brexit department said.
One advisory group will consist of technical experts in trade and customs, which will look at advanced use of IT systems and “cutting-edge technologies”. The others will be a business and trade union engagement group and a parliamentary engagement group.
The pursuit of alternative arrangements is a particular demand of eurosceptic lawmakers in May’s party who strongly opposed her deal but have suggested they could be persuaded to back an amended agreement if the backstop was only temporary or Britain could exit it unilaterally.
May must bring her accord back to parliament for a vote before March 12.
By Michael Holden