BREXITEER Dominic Raab revealed he was “regularly” notified while Brexit Secretary about certain officials within the European Union who wanted to use the Irish border issue to force Britain into a backstop in an effort to “control the UK after Brexit”.
Mr Raab said it would be “naive” to think there were not officials in the European Commission and on the island of Ireland that wanted to use the backstop to keep the UK closely aligned to the European Union after Brexit. Speaking in the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Mr Raab said: “I think the substantive issue with the border is eminently solvable with goodwill, practical co-operation, technology ad the decentralised processes Michel Barnier referred to.
“I think there are certainly some in Dublin, some in Northern Ireland and certainly in the Commission who have seen this as an opportunity to choose the high-level alignment approach to the backstop to control the UK after Brexit.
“I have absolutely no doubt that there are some voices for that and indeed it was regularly reported to me by the diplomatic channel, through our diplomats, that there were voices to that effect.
“I think we would be naive to think that wasn’t part of the debate.”
The former Brexit Secretary then referenced comments made by Mr Barnier in January in which he said the EU was drawing up measures to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Mr Raab said: “I do think there was a quite important shift from Michel Barnier on the 24th January when he said in relation to a no deal scenario, which none of us want or certainly I don’t want and I don’t think the EU side want, he said, and I quote, ‘we would be obliged in a no deal scenario in relation to the border, we would be obliged to carry out controls on goods arriving in the Republic of Ireland.
“My team have worked hard to study how controls can be made paperless or decentralised which will be useful in all circumstances’.
“And he later clarified that an operational way of carrying out checks and controls without putting back a border would have to be found."
Mr Raab said he found the comments interesting because it emphasises how quickly the Irish border issue can be resolved.
He said: “The reason I found this interesting was because you were talking about the end of the implementation period whether this could be done.
“Michel Barnier is saying it could be done in a no deal scenario. If it can be done within two months then it must be possible to do it within two years.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will return to Brussels demanding changes to the controversial Irish border backstop proposal, which has remained to be the key sticking point for both the UK and EU throughout negotiations.
EU officials have since said rejected any effort to reopen negotiations.
The rebuke from Brussels came after Mrs May defied expectations to win a vote on a Government-backed motion by prominent Tory backbencher and 1922 Committee Chairman Sir Graham Brady.
The amendment replaces the backstop with unspecified “alternative arrangements” which the Government admitted would need to be thrashed out in further talks.
But European Council president Donald Tusk rushed to reiterate that the Withdrawal Agreement struck last November cannot be changed.
The European Parliament will meet on Wednesday at 2pm to discuss how the situation regarding Brexit has evolved in the UK in the past months, since Mrs May thrashed her Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels in November.
Mr Barnier said: “The position of the EU is very clear and has been expressed by President Tusk and President Junker will make a statement to Parliament this afternoon.”
Culled from the Express.