Tensions over Brexit between the European Union and the United Kingdom are escalating. The war in Ukraine makes matters more sensitive.
The game started again. The United Kingdom is once again on a collision course with the European Union over Brexit. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to announce national legislation allowing the repeal (parts) of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol. This document, agreed by both sides in 2019, regulates how trade between Great Britain on one side and Northern Ireland on the other should be conducted after Brexit. More precisely, it provides administrative controls on the movement of goods between the two parts of the United Kingdom. Although the controls take place in the ports of Northern Ireland, people usually talk about the Irish maritime border between Great Britain and Ireland.
Where do these controls come from? During the Brexit negotiations, the British government had the option of remaining in the European customs union and the internal market for goods. This would have avoided such inspections, but it would have implied that the UK could not pursue an independent international trade policy and remain bound by European case law through the Luxembourg Court of Justice. Unacceptable, influential Brexiteers believed at the time. However, with the 1998 Good Friday Agreements banning checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland, there was only one option left: inspections of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The agreement, also known as the Withdrawal Agreement, was terminated in October 2019.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson always emphasized during those negotiations that as head of government he would not jeopardize the unity of the United Kingdom, particularly by the Irish sea border. “I will not, under any circumstances, whatsoever, allow the European Union or anyone else to cause a split in the Irish Sea.” It looked bleak† But only weeks later, Johnson reluctantly agreed that Northern Ireland would remain part of the European Customs Union and the internal market for goods. Impact Study Commissioned by the British government department for Brexit around the same period, she made clear that there would be paperwork and checks. Johnson remained even after signing the withdrawal agreement keep the opposite† quod nun.
Even if the UK implements a fraction of the agreed checks, it costs time and therefore money. This is not to the liking of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which seeks close ties between Belfast and London. The party lost last week’s election to the pro-Ireland Sinn Fein party, while at the same time refusing to join a new government in which the two parties are required to participate under the Good Friday Agreements. Exactly 100 years after Northern Ireland gained independence from Ireland, the party is demanding that inspections be removed between the two parts of the country. However, on Wednesday, former Prime Minister Theresa May indicated that the DUP rejected her previous proposal, which would have avoided the maritime border, in the spring of 2019.
In any case, the DUP has the support of Johnson, who is also head of – entirely – the Conservative and Unionist party. On Thursday, he said, “Northern Ireland’s democratic institutions have collapsed and the dysfunctional Northern Ireland Protocol needs to be rewritten.” According to him, the Northern Ireland Protocol is detrimental to the Good Friday Agreements, while according to the Federation it does just the opposite. He is currently awaiting an official legal opinion from Suella Braverman, the attorney general representing the Johnson administration on the matter. You would likely argue that the EU is acting unreasonably and therefore the UK government is within its right to withdraw parts of the protocol. “Change is painfully necessary,” Braverman said. Register for BBC†
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo (Open VLD) dismissed the point in Berlin on Tuesday with the support of fellow German Olaf Schulz. The Northern Ireland Protocol was just one of the items that the UK itself requested during the negotiations. Now this suddenly appears to be a problem,” says de Croo. The Belgian head of government is not wrong, knowing that Johnson’s government saw few alternatives to the current arrangement. De Croo immediately pointed out that the unilateral termination on the part of the British side is a major problem for the integrity of the European internal market. The internal market is of paramount importance to us. If the UK scraps the Northern Ireland Protocol, the entire system will be reformed.
Big warning to Johnson. The trade agreement signed at the end of 2020 contains significant countermeasures if one of the parties does not comply with the concluded agreements. For example, the union could introduce tariffs – whether limited or not – which would make it more difficult for British merchants to sell their products on the European market. For the UK, this is by no means clear. The European Union still accounts for 65 per cent of British exports. But Industrial Strategy Minister Kwasi Kwarting does not believe there will be a trade war between the two sides of the canal. This is supposed to be true. Against the background of the war in Ukraine, both sides of the channel are not waiting for an additional economic blow.
In any case, the commission is deeply troubled by the UK’s position, according to a European diplomat involved. The UK, as it were, is abusing the war in Ukraine to whitewash the Brexit file. They play well about one thing, but in the meantime they show themselves quite unreliable about the other, it seems. At the first partnership meeting between UK and European MPs Last Thursday, British Minister Michael Ellis immediately began talking about war and British-European cooperation in this context. He later stated that he was disappointed that the UK had not yet received permission from Brussels to participate in, among other things, the European Horizon research program and the Copernicus satellite programme. “It was downright hallucinations, as if we had to blame,” the diplomat says.
In the United States, developments on the other side of the Atlantic are already being watched with great concern. Some members of the US Congress have sent a letter to British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss not to violate agreements with the European Union. Recently, the second round of negotiations on a possible trade agreement between the UK and the US was held in the Scottish city of Aberdeen. But both US President Joe Biden and the influential Chairman of the Board of Directors Ways and Means Committee Richard Neil Your Irish the roots We do not want the British government to violate the agreements.
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