Michael Gove: We don't know if new Brexit backstop could last 'weeks or months'

Anna Mikhailova
Michael Gove - Getty Images Europe

Michael Gove refused to say how long UK could stay aligned with the EU customs union after Brexit, or clarify whether it might be "weeks or months".

The Environment Secretary went on to compare Theresa May’s new “backstop plan” to a costly bridging loan.

Mr Gove said the fall-back position, which is a last resort if the the Irish border issue is not resolved in time, was by definition "temporary".

But, when repeatedly asked to specify how long this backstop time limit would be, Mr Gove said: "It means what it says on the tin. That temporary means not permanent. It means for a short period of time.

Brexit customs union

 

"I'm not going to pre-empt the eventual position that we take after we have negotiated with the European Union and with Ireland."

"In the same way as when you move house, a bridging loan is meant to be temporary, but, whether that's weeks or months, we don't know precisely,” the minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Bridging loans are a short-term, more expensive type of financing than a traditional mortgage. They are usually taken out to “bridge the gap” between buying a new house and selling your previous house.

The backstop option was devised as an alternative to the European Commission proposal that Northern Ireland should remain in the customs union if no better resolution for the border issue can be found.

This was rejected by Mrs May as something no British Prime Minister could sign up to, because it would effectively create a border in the Irish Sea.

She described the backstop as "a very limited set of circumstances for a limited time", adding: "Nobody wants this to be the solution that is achieved."

Last week Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said Brexiteers would be prepared to accept the plan only if it was strictly time-limited, adding it must not last more than "a month or two".

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