The United Kingdom’s inevitable climb down over its objections to the Backstop Protocol in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union would be somewhat embarrassing if it wasn’t surpassed by the even greater embarrassment created by Prime Minister Theresa May and her desperate attempts to argue that “legally binding changes” to the protocol can now be found in ancillary documents issued by the UK and the EU. The grandly titled Instrument relating to the agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and the related Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration setting out framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland contain no amendments to the text of the Backstop Protocol. Nor do they cancel the application of the Protocol as already drafted. London’s claims to the contrary are entirely false, as is much of the spin being offered today by May loyalists in the faction-riven Conservative Party government in Britain.
If a majority of pro-Brexit MPs in the House of Commons go on to support the Withdrawal Agreement, including the more fanatical members of the political axis between the Tories’ European Research Group (ERG) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), it will be with the full knowledge that “assurances” over the Backstop Protocol do not represent “changes”. Which will explain the unsettled noises already emerging from the DUP ranks, even if the leadership is holding its counsel for now. As for the UK’s self-published, self-styled “unilateral declaration” on the Protocol and its standing as an instrument of international law: bonkers!