The Government has been very clear since the UK decided to leave the EU that we are committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including protecting the all-island economy and avoiding the emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. Those objectives are delivered by the Withdrawal Agreement and backstop, and it is the only solution currently on the table that delivers the outcomes that everyone, including the UK, wants to achieve.
In the absence of the Withdrawal Agreement, there are no easy solutions. As the Contingency Action Plan states “there should be no illusion – a no deal Brexit would result in far-reaching change on the island of Ireland”.
The Government is therefore working closely with the European Commission to meet the shared twin objectives of protecting the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it, and avoiding a hard border, including physical infrastructure in a no deal scenario. This work is examining the necessary checks to preserve Ireland’s full participation in the Single Market and Customs Union. The EU has been clear that it is determined to do all it can, deal or no deal, to avoid the need for a border and to protect the peace process. Ireland and the EU are at one on this.
Both the EU and the UK Government agree that no one has yet come up with any alternatives aimed at avoiding a hard border that are better than those set out in the Withdrawal Agreement. The backstop remains the only viable solution on the table that avoids any physical infrastructure and related checks and controls, preserves the all-island economy, and fully protects the Good Friday Agreement, as well the integrity of the EU Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.