Poland’s foreign minister has suggested time-limiting the Brexit backstop to five years, in a move that will be seen as a chink of light for Theresa May.
The EU has steadfastly refused to agreeing to place any time limit on the fallback plan designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Jacek Czaputowicz said on Monday while this would be “less beneficial for Ireland than an indefinite backstop” it would be “much more favourable” for Dublin than a no-deal exit.
The backstop, which would keep the UK closely tied to EU rules, would be triggered if the two sides fail to agree a future trading agreement.
It is strongly opposed by Tory Brexiteers, as well as the government’s DUP allies, who believe it will be used by Brussels to keep the UK aligned to the EU indefinitely. Its inclusion in the Withdrawal Agreement was a major reason the prime minister’s deal was voted down by the Commons last week.
Czaputowicz’s intervention is a break with the agreed EU position. In an interview with Polish publication Rzeczpospolita, he said: “If Ireland appealed to the EU to change the agreement on the backstop in the agreement with the British […] so that it would apply temporarily, let’s say five years, the matter would be solved.
“Of course, this would be less beneficial for Ireland than an indefinite backstop, but much more favorable than the non-contractual [no deal] Brexit, which inevitably approaches.”
Downing Street today dismissed a report in The Daily Telegraph the prime minister was considering seeking a bilateral agreement with Dublin or rewriting the Good Friday Agreement in order to break the deadlock over the backstop.
Asked if the Good Friday Agreement could be rewritten, Theresa May’s official spokesman said: “No. The prime minister has been clear on multiple occasions that we are committed to upholding the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and to delivering a solution that avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has also appeared to rule out the prospect of the UK striking a bilateral deal with Ireland.
“As you know, its in evidence, we are working 27 as a team, a single team and we negotiate as one,” he said today.
May will set out her next steps to build a majority for a Brexit deal in the Commons today, amid signs she is still unwilling to give ground on her central demands.
Jeremy Corbyn has out at the prime minister for stymieing attempts to find a cross-party consensus through her refusal to rule out a no-deal Brexit.