With the passing  by the House of Commons on Tuesday night 29th January 2019 of the so called "Brady Amendment " committing the UK Government to seek suitable  "alternative arrangements" to the "Backstop" provisions of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol to the draft European Union Withdrawal Agreement rejected by the Commons two weeks earlier, another piece of  jargon has entered the Brexit  lexicon  - " Alternative Arrangements"!... Yes, but what on earth are "Alternative Arrangements"?

One clue may lie in the re-affirmation of the so called "Good Friday Agreement" ( also known as "the Belfast Agreement") of 10th April 1998, which has been the foundation stone of more than 20 years of relative peace in Northern Ireland.  Wording in the draft Withdrawal Agreement  which nobody disputes - in Paragraph 1 of Article 1 of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol -  makes it clear that nothing in the Protocol is to infringe in any way upon the sanctity of the Good Friday Agreement regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent, whereby any change in that status can only be made with the consent of a majority of its people.

The "Backstop" provisions of the Protocol were designed to preserve the frictionless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which has been one of the major beneficial outcomes of the Belfast Agreement.

Perhaps the way forward is to contemplate a further treaty arrangement between Ireland and the United Kingdom focussing on how best to preserve the frictionless border within the context of Brexit and to run that treaty arrangement in parallel with the separate but inter-linked Withdrawal Agreement. Between now and "exit day" (currently 29th March 2019 at 11pm) there may not be time to fashion a detailed treaty arrangement of this sort but this could be addressed by a commitment to sort out such alternative arrangements (the veritable  "Alternative Arrangements" red in tooth and claw!) within the transition period (currently proposed to last up to and including 31st December 2020). If such alternative arrangements were not sorted out in time, there could be an extended mechanism for trying to agree the detailed alternative arrangements further down the line but if by a certain date (maybe 5 years after the expiry of the transition period, maybe longer) such alternative arrangements had not been agreed, then the European Union  (or Ireland on its behalf) or the United Kingdom could serve notice on the other invoking the "no deal" option - and on their own heads be it!

The above approach would convert the "backstop" from a "condition precedent" to a "condition subsequent" in legal terms and give all the hard pressed peoples of free Europe a well-deserved breather to get on with their lives.