1139 GMT February 19, 2019
The legal advice published on Wednesday, after the parliament forced the government to do so, showed that the backstop, meant to avoid a hard border between Ireland and UK province of Northern Ireland after Brexit, could lead to “protracted and repeated rounds of negotiations” if its triggered in 2020, two years after Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May had refused to release details of the legal advice compiled by attorney general Geoffrey Cox, saying it would not be in the interests of the public to access the full document.
However, the main opposition Labour Party won a motion on Tuesday which sought to show whether the government had been in contempt of the House of Commons by refusing to publish the text, Presstv Reported.
The Labour insisted it was necessary for lawmakers to know the full legal aspects of May’s Brexit deal with the EU before they are going to vote on the agreement on December 11.
Cox conceded in the six-page document released by the government that Britain could be trapped indefinitely in the backstop, saying the clause will “endure” even if negotiations between the two sides for reaching a mutual trade consensus for the post-Brexit time broke down.
“In international law, the protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding arrangement took its place,” said the document.
The backstop was a main bone of contention in talks between May and the EU over the past two years. The EU insists it should be able to include Northern Ireland in its customs union and move the border to the Irish Sea until a mechanism is found for bilateral trade.
Critics say the clause would undermine UK’s sovereignty as it effectively separates Northern Ireland from the mainland Britain.
Both London and the EU have indicated the deal they finalized last month in Brussels is the only option possible and Brexit should happen on March 29, 2019 regardless of the decision adopted by the British parliament.
However, the ITV said in a Wednesday report that May was seeking to negotiate an amendment to backstop in a bid to win more support for her Brexit deal in the parliament.
The report said the amendment would mean that British lawmakers should approve a government request for entering backstop if there is a need to trigger the clause at the end of the two-year transition period that follows Brexit.