The backstop plan is a safety net if no Brexit deal is negotiated by June 2019, it is proposed to try and stop a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. When the UK leaves the EU, Britain will be subject to different trading laws and regulations (although it is not yet clear what these will be), while the EU remains as a single market, free trade area and customs union. Consequently, the boundary between the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which will leave the EU with the rest of the UK when Brexit occurs, naturally forming a hard border between the two countries.
In the proposed Withdrawal Agreement if no deal is negotiated before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU the UK/Republic of Ireland border would have an invisible border instead of hard one This involves a free trade area across Ireland and would enforce the same trade regulations/taxes. However, this would mean Northern Ireland would have a different trade arrangement than the rest of the UK and a customs border in the Irish Sea. The only way this is solved is by keeping the whole of the UK in the customs union which has much opposition in the Commons, MP’s fear once the backstop is triggered there will be no way out of it for the UK. Therefore, this topic is heavily discussed within EU debates.
Customs Checks – refers to the checks and process of examination goods coming into the country are subjected to, along with the tax paid for them to be traded.
Free Trade Area – A group of countries between whom any trade tariffs, quotas or other restrictions have been removed (see Free Trade article for a more detailed explanation).
Hard Border – a border between countries that is heavily controlled making it hard for people and goods to cross between the two states.
Withdrawal Agreement (divorce deal) – a draft proposal containing how Brexit should happen, proposed by Theresa May and her government to leave the EU in March 2019.