The Irish economist Karl Whelan has suggested that the EU should clarify that it has no objections to Great Britain leaving the customs union backstop while Northern Ireland stays in it. "This is the original version of the backstop that the EU offered, so it should be clear they are willing to still offer this," says Prof Whelan. That would leave Great Britain free to strike trade deals but Northern Ireland would not be part of them.

Brexit: What are the new ideas for the Irish backstop?

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Theresa May says she has "fresh mandate and renewed determination" to revisit the Brexit deal
GETTY IMAGESImage captionTheresa May says she has “fresh mandate and renewed determination” to revisit the Brexit deal

Prime Minister Theresa May says she intends to return to Brussels with new ideas on the Irish backstop –John Campbell, BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

AIWA! NO!|The EU has already dismissed the idea of putting a time limit on the backstop, so what other ideas have been suggested?

The backstop: a reminder

The backstop is an insurance policy – designed to avoid a hard border “under all circumstances” between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

If the UK leaves the customs union and the single market that could mean goods would have to be checked as they crossed the frontier.

The UK and EU would instead like to keep the border frictionless through a comprehensive trade deal.

If such an agreement could not be reached, then to avoid those checks with customs posts or other infrastructure, the backstop would come into force.

It would keep the UK in a “single customs territory” with the EU, and leave Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

Many MPs fear the UK could be “trapped” in that arrangement for years, leaving it unable to strike its own trade deals on goods with the rest of the world.

The prime minister’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) allies also do not want to see Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK.

So what could be done?

Clarification – and another referendum

The Irish economist Karl Whelan has suggested that the EU should clarify that it has no objections to Great Britain leaving the customs union backstop while Northern Ireland stays in it.

“This is the original version of the backstop that the EU offered, so it should be clear they are willing to still offer this,” says Prof Whelan.

That would leave Great Britain free to strike trade deals but Northern Ireland would not be part of them.

That would be anathema to the DUP and other MPs.

Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster at Downing Street
Image captionThe DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster want NI to be treated the same as the rest of the UK after Brexit

The second part of Prof Whelan’s plan is to use the Brexit political declaration to promise the citizens of Northern Ireland a referendum on the backstop, should it ever come into effect.

He suggests that five years after the beginning of the operation of a Northern Ireland-only backstop there would be a vote on whether to remain within the EU’s customs union and single market.

He says: “A promise to hold a referendum five years after the end of the transition period would provide a clear concession to those who believe the backstop arrangements would be harmful to Northern Ireland by offering them a chance to convince their fellow citizens to end the arrangements after a period.”

A European customs association

A paper for the German Ifo Institute suggests that the difficulties with the backstop should cause both sides to fundamentally rethink their red lines.

It proposes a new European customs association – a permanent customs union between the UK and the EU.

It would be superior to the customs deal Turkey has with the EU giving the UK “full and active participation”, instead of merely being a rule-taker.

However, it acknowledges even that would not be enough to keep the Irish border frictionless and the UK would have to effectively remain in the single market for goods and perhaps services.

A boy writing anti-Brexit slogans on a wall on the Irish border
Image captionThe Irish border has been one of the most contentious Brexit issues

In return for such an enormous u-turn by the UK, the institute says that the EU should also make a radical change on free movement.

The EU’s position is that the UK cannot enjoy full participation in the single market unless it accepts the four freedoms – one of which is the free movement of people.

The institute says the EU could “abandon its indivisibility dogma by which the four freedoms are inseparable, offering the UK to participate in product market integration but allowing it to make its own choices in other areas”.

It adds: “Most importantly, this concerns the mobility of people.”

Beef up the political declaration

The political declaration was published alongside the withdrawal deal and sets out the broad shape of the future relationship between the UK and EU.

EU leaders have said they are open to redrafting the declaration if the UK presents new ideas.

The former Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff has, in a paper for the European Policy Centre, suggested improvements aimed at “rescuing” the withdrawal agreement.

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Philip Hammond’s speech showed why the Tories are struggling to take on Jeremy Corbyn

BREXIT LATEST:Philip Hammond talks about second referendum while Corbyn approves “unholy alliance” to deliver Brexit

Daily Express
Philip Hammond looking serious

The Chancellor identified British capitalism’s flaws but offered few answers. 

Caron Lindsa, Liberal Democrat Voice |
@caronmlindsay

AIWA! NEWS INTERNATIONAL|There’s some interesting nuggets in the Sunday Times reports on the Brexit chaos and ongoing shenanigans. It’s not the headlines, which are about the Royal Family being moved out of London if there are no deal riots, or the supposed new party to be formed on Valentine’s Day as Labour MPs resign the whip. It’s what else is in the article.

Earlier this week, Christine Jardine talked about the Labour Party became the “handmaids of Brexit” after their votes blocked Yvette Cooper’s amendment and helped pass Graham Brady’s time-wasting one calling for unicorns on the Irish border. Well maybe unicorns weren’t explicitly mentioned, but it all amounts to the same thing.

READ RELATED:Philip Hammond’s speech showed why the Tories are struggling to take on Jeremy Corbyn

Labour’s role in facilitating Brexit was highlighted in an article in the Sunday Times today. Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler wrote(£) about how

An “unholy alliance” has formed to force through a deal consisting of May’s allies, a member of the shadow cabinet, the trade unions and Labour MPs, with Jeremy Corbyn’s tacit approval.

recent poll suggested that Liberal Democrat support would go way up, even overtaking Labour, if Corbyn’s party helped deliver Brexit.

Corbyn looks increasingly unlikely to back the People’s Vote that the majority of his party’s member’s want. Labour membership data for Scotland, leaked to the Herald shows that Labour has lost 20% of its members north of the border. The fall in Edinburgh, a strongly Remain city in a strongly Remain country, is spectacular.

The other interesting bit of information is that Philip Hammond, who really can’t be getting much sleep when he crunches the numbers, has been sounding out senior Conservatives about another referendum.

Could it be that, if May fails to placate the ERG and get the numbers to get her deal through, she’ll have to contemplate what to her is unthinkable? That is what Vince seems to be relying on. Let’s hope he’s right.

Although I’m not sure he’s right about one thing he said today. He said another referendum wouldn’t be fun. I think that if we get it, our chance of winning it is to approach it with enthusiasm.

The pro-Remain side will be unencumbered by No 10 or Corbynesque faint-heartedness. It would be free to go for a really emotive, positive, heartstring-tugging, authentic campaign while the other side has to defend something that will definitively make us poorer.

The reason people are so resistant to a referendum is because they know that it could be won by Remain if we get our act together and deliver a decent campaign.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron’s Musings

Jacob Rees-Mogg defends attendance at DUP fundraiser hosted by Ian Paisley - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

Tories question what Rees-Mogg was doing at DUP dinner

Image result for DUP MOGG:Jacob Rees-Mogg defends attendance at DUP fundraiser hosted by Ian Paisley - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

Jacob Rees-Mogg defends attendance at DUP fundraiser hosted by Ian Paisley – BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

Matt Withers , The New European|AIWA! News International|Northern Ireland Tories have questioned why Jacob Rees-Mogg addressed a DUP fundraiser despite having never attended any of their own events.

The outspoken no-deal Brexiteer and European Research Group chairman appeared at a Democratic Unionist dinner at the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena last night.

The guest list also included prominent Brexiteer and co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign, Arron Banks.

Banks praised the DUP as “fundamental” to Brexit, claiming if it was delivered, it would be “because of the DUP”.

But the only elected Tory in Northern Ireland said he would expect Rees-Mogg to have supported his own party, rather than another.

Councillor David Harding said he understood that the chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservatives “will be having a word” with ees-Mogg about the matter.

Rees-Mogg was welcomed to the venue by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, and defended his attendance as “supporting the Conservatives’ coalition partners”.

But Harding questioned why he was not supporting his own party.

“Obviously, as a Conservative, I would expect members of Parliament for the Conservative Party would support their own party,” Harding said.

“But that’s maybe a reflection on the individual.

“He made the choice and that’s up to him.

“Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the chairman of the party in Northern Ireland wasn’t going to have a word with Jacob Rees-Mogg.”

The Democratic Unionists and the Conservatives have been involved in a confidence and supply deal since the 2017 General Election.

Rees-Mogg told media representatives in Ballymena that he does speak to the Northern Ireland Conservatives.

A Northern Ireland Conservatives’ spokesman confirmed they do talk to Rees-Mogg regularly, adding “as we do with many Conservative MPs”.

“I believe he has been invited by one of our associations in the past but has not yet addressed an event in NI,” he said.

“It is also fair to say that it is only in recent times that he became the sort of well-known MP that would be asked to address meetings.”

A number of other high profile Conservative MPs, including David Lidington and Sajid Javid, have spoken at NI Conservative events.

Chairman of the NI Conservatives, Alan Dunlop, said yesterday that Rees-Mogg risked making himself look foolish.

“Sadly on occasions, often in an honest defence of their principal political views, politicians find themselves making odd alliances and standing elements of their own political logic on its head,” he said.

“They make themselves look foolish when they do so.”

Rees-Mogg is not the first Conservative MP to headline a DUP event, and is following in the footsteps of several high-profile representatives.

Last November, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson addressed the DUP’s conference.