The talk this morning is of the so-called “Irish Backstop” being somehow removed from the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between Britain and the EU. The frenzy of backstop removal-itis even permeated the discussion on The Andy Marr Show™ where the host put it to Tánaiste Simon Coveney that the backstop was now dead. Marr was, sadly, plain flat wrong, and so are those talking up this ridiculous hokum.
Newton Dunn: peddling non story
This matters: the public have been fed so much fanciful drivel in the past two and a half years that it would make a pleasant change for the feeding to cease and a dose of reality to be injected in its place. But, once again, someone sets a hare running, it gets talked up out of all proportion, but the reason it looks too good to be true is, once again, because it is too good to be true. Here, the principal culprit is the Murdoch press.
So where does the story originate? Theresa May had a conference call with her cabinet last Sunday. As the Guardian has reported, “Cabinet sources said the consensus on the 90-minute call was to renew efforts to find acceptable changes to the backstop arrangement but that the conversation was light on specifics. One said there were ‘no actual solutions’ proposed during the call”. But Sky News went further. A lot further.
Their report of the same conference call told “Mrs May is expected to set out plans to try and ‘remove the Irish backstop’ in an effort to win around the DUP, whose 10 MPs she relies on for support in parliament, and some of the 118 Conservatives who opposed her deal last week”. Spot the difference. But then it went quiet.
Marr: backstop is dead, right?
Until the Murdoch Sun, in the person of non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn, resurrected the idea. First, in Friday’s paper, he claimed “The DUP have agreed to support the PM's plan if it includes a clear time-limit to the hated Irish backstop”. But we’ve been here before: the backstop cannot, by its very nature, be time limited.
The following day, Newton Dunn, clearly in Ron Hopeful mode, told readers “Theresa May close to winning Commons majority for divisive Brexit deal and could call for EU to axe hated Irish backstop”. And she could come away with a flea in her ear. But the delusion has continued, thanks to the Sun on Sunday, where deeply unpleasant political editor David Wooding has claimed “Theresa May’s Brexit deal can go from zero to hero if she just ditches Irish backstop, says Iain Duncan Smith”. Yeah, right.
Coveney: no it isn't, so wrong
Duncan Cough should not be trusted any further than the SOB can be usefully chucked - not without a reputable second source, anyway. It is crystal clear to anyone inhabiting the real world that this idea is a non-starter. As Coveney told Marr, the backstop is in itself a compromise, a result of Theresa May’s so-called “red lines”. It is not going to be renegotiated, ditched, axed, or time limited. It is going nowhere.
The Murdoch press is free to inhabit some kind of fantasy parallel universe if it so chooses. The BBC should not even consider going there. Full stop, end of story.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at