In order to avoid a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, Article 6 of the Northern Ireland Protocol proposes that the United Kingdom and EU customs officers act as one from the end of the transition period (December 31, 2020) until the parties agree on a satisfactory alternative for both parties.  The single customs territory between the UK and the EU does not apply to fish products: for example, fish transported from Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to EU tariffs in the absence of a separate fishing agreement.  The backstop is part of the draft withdrawal agreement negotiated between Theresa May`s government and the EU. During the withdrawal negotiations, the Irish border issue was one of three areas that required a specific stream of negotiations to reach the necessary withdrawal agreement before future relations between the UK and the EU could be agreed.    The Irish and British governments as well as EU officials have stated that they do not want a hard border in Ireland, given the historical and social “sensitivities” that cross the island.  In a memo from Industry Minister Richard Harrington, which was picked up by Sky News, “this [technical] idea was discussed and rejected by the UK and the EU in the summer of 2018, with both sides concluding that it would not remain an open border. That`s why we`ve finished the current backstop. There are no borders in the world right now, apart from a customs union that has eliminated border infrastructure.  EU officials insist that they will not reopen last year`s withdrawal agreement with Theresa May – the final draw of which is an integral part. Since about 2005, the border has been considered invisible, with little or no physical infrastructure, with security barriers and checkpoints being eliminated as a result of processes introduced by the Good Friday Agreement (or “Belfast Agreement” signed in 1998).    This agreement has the status of both an international treaty between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (the Anglo-Irish Agreement) and an agreement between the parties in Northern Ireland (multi-party agreement).
What is the big picture behind the Brexit backstop drama? In March 2019, the UK government and the EU agreed on an additional “instrument” to address these concerns. The backstop would not apply if the UK left the EU without a deal, but the potential border problems remained. This is where the controversial backstop comes in. The terms of the backstop were finalized in November 2018. On 29 March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May launched the two-year Brexit negotiation process with a deadline set for Article 50 of the EU Treaty.  In response, the other EU countries (EU27) have published their “phased” negotiating strategy, which has postponed all negotiations on future relations with the UK (the non-binding “political declaration”) until a binding withdrawal agreement is reached: negotiations between officials resulted in a draft treaty to be concluded at a meeting between Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May on 4 December 2017 in Brussels.