Queen's Policy Engagement

Brexit and the backstop

Professor David Phinnemore and Dr Katy Hayward ask "What is the Backstop?"

Brexit and the backstop

We’d be safely on the home straight by now – Withdrawal Agreement agreed and a political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship undergoing a final polish – were it not for one dastardly issue: ‘the backstop’. And its complexity only appears to grow, regardless of how much the negotiators try to reassure us of their proximity to a conclusion: 80%, 90%, 95%!

Northern Ireland is often associated with the word ‘intractable’. How true it is with Brexit and the backstop. And how unfortunate it is, to say the least, that the negotiations on a withdrawal deal could ultimately fail over what to do with this complicated small region of 1.8m people.

Or, to be more precise, what to do with the border of some 499km between Northern Ireland and Ireland that will, with Brexit, become the border between the UK and the EU.

Both the UK and EU have repeatedly pledged their intention to avoid seeing this boundary become a ‘hard border’. The question, of course, is how.

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Dr Katy Hayward is a Reader in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast. She has particular expertise on cross-border cooperation and management, focusing on the case study of Ireland/Northern Ireland and the impact of EU membership.


Article originally appeared in The UK in a Changing Europe site.

The featured image in this article is used under a Creative Commons licence. 

Professor David Phinnemore
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David Phinnemore is Professor of European Politics and Jean Monnet Chair in European Political Science in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen's University Belfast. Professor Phinnemore's research interests cover EU treaty reform, EU enlargement, EU external relations and alternatives to EU membership, particularly association.

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