Re: The optics don't look good
The problem of the backstop is really just a cover for the real problem. This comes down to the GFA, which the government seems to have forgotten is an international treaty that binds all signatories (in this case, the then leaders of the UK, and Irish govt, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and the secretary of state for NI).
The GFA states that there will be no border between the Republic of Ireland, and NI. In order for this to happen, there has to be free movement of goods, services, and people between Ireland and NI.
The backstop is in place to prevent this from being breached, by saying that, in the absence of any other arrangement* that preserves the GFA, NI remains in the EU customs union. This is required by the EU to protect the 4 freedoms (movement of people, capital, services, and goods), the foundation of cooperation between all EU member states.
The EU is simply not going to sacrifice the four freedoms for the good of the British government, no matter how loudly we shout, as this would destroy the entire Union, so the possible outcomes I can see are:
- No deal, the UK either accepts free movement from the EU via the NI border (and thus under WTO terms, must accept it globally), or puts up a border and breaches the GFA, whereupon we welcome back domestic terrorism in mainland Britain probably within days.
- May's deal, with the backstop, NI remains in the CU until another solution is found*, with a border down the Irish sea.
- May's deal, with the backstop, the whole UK remains in the CU until another solution is found*
- Extend A50 while we try to come up with something better
- Revoke A50 and concede that the whole idea of leaving the EU was ill thought-out in the first place.
*Nobody has yet been able to come up with what another solution would look like, beyond obviously unworkable non-existent magical technology fixes, or a border-away-from-the-border type fudge.