Sunday, June 20

Brexit hot dog row looks like a standoff unless Joe Biden can solve it | Anand menon

NorthRegardless of how much everyone is arguing, you can’t stuff sausages. The UK and the EU disagree, specifically on chilled meats, but more generally on the infamous Northern Ireland protocol. And frankly, it’s hard to see a way out of the current stalemate.

It will be for future generations to discover what Boris Johnson I had in mind Regarding the protocol, he negotiated, signed and convinced parliament to approve it. Didn’t you know what it meant in terms of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Did you decide to just improvise, thinking it would be enough to get you through the choices you longed for, with some “sandpaper” to smooth out any difficulties later on? Did you think the EU could be forced to give in? Did you sign it with no intention of implementing it and to hell with the consequences?

What really challenges belief is Chief Negotiator David Frost’s claim that the EU “purist”The approach to implementing the Brexit agreement has surprised our government. I mean, what is the EU if it is not legalistic? For five long years, the British government did little more than express understandable frustration at Brussels’ rigid legalism. It’s a bit rich now to come out of the closet and say effectively: “My God, we did not think that the EU would become totally legalistic with us.”

Anyway, we are where we are, and that is a very difficult situation. The UK has unilaterally delayed the implementation of some of the measures the EU says the protocol entails (notably a ban on the export of chilled meat, including sausages, via the Irish Sea) and threatens to delay further. more. There are more arguments to come, as the grace periods final and – with no agreement on “technical” issues big and small – border controls begin on everything from food products and packages on October 1, to medicines early next year.

The hard fact is that the UK signed this deal and the EU has legitimate expectations that we will implement it. However, both sides are right.

For the EU, disbelief is mixed with frustration. Disbelief comes with London’s refusal to honor his word and implement what the agreement he voluntarily signed entails. The frustration stems from the fact that there is an easy way out of the current stalemate. If the UK simply agrees to align itself with the EU rules on animal and plant health, even on a temporary basis, the need for the vast majority of controls would simply evaporate.

Brexit: solution to Northern Ireland protocol row 'easily doable', says Johnson - video
Brexit: solution to Northern Ireland protocol row ‘easily doable’, says Johnson – video

For the UK, such a result is unacceptable. For one thing, as Frost put it in a speech in Brussels in February 2020, the aim of Brexit was to ensure that the UK was free to make its own laws and therefore would reject any automatic alignment with the EU (London would accept mutual recognition). The unionist fury over the protocol, which they see as putting Northern Ireland in the same economy (at least in goods) as the Republic of Ireland, while the distance from that of the UK, is real.

Squaring this particularly circular set of circles won’t be easy. British sausages are allowed in Northern Ireland or not. The UK argues, correctly, that there is currently no health problem here, as our rules are the same as those in force in the single market. The EU argues, also correctly, that that is not the point. The UK does not formally abide by the EU rules and so aside from future health risks should the UK decide to alter its standards, that’s just the price London has to pay for the rate. of Brexit that he has decided to follow.

It’s, to say the least, hard to see how you can order this one. Which immediately raises the possibility of an escalation. Catherine Barnard, a specialist in EU law, has reminded us that the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement It allows either party “suspend obligations” under that treaty in the event of noncompliance with prior agreements. For non-lawyers, that means imposing trade sanctions for breaches of the 2019 withdrawal agreement, which contains the protocol.

And the EU is very good at this kind of thing. In 2018, his retaliatory tariffs on the U.S. saw key Republican territories like Kentucky (home of then-Senate Majority Leader and Donald Trump ally Mitch McConnell) and Tennessee (home of Jack Daniel’s) particularly hit hard. for whiskey fees. We can be pretty sure that any action he takes against the UK would be calculated to cause the prime minister political pain.

Not that the escalation of the EU is necessarily going to provide a solution. It could simply entrench the UK, citing the excessive heavy-handedness of Brussels.

Northern Ireland protocol 'must be implemented', says Ursula von der Leyen - video
Northern Ireland protocol ‘must be implemented’, says Ursula von der Leyen – video

So what are the alternatives? One is that the EU is backing down. Using some magic formula of diplomacy, traceability and guillotine clauses, Brussels agrees that chilled meats entering Northern Ireland do not pose any unmanageable health risks, especially if it can be established that they do not go beyond the market. unique. The EU can make concessions whenever it wants. Having told Theresa May that it was unthinkable that Brussels would allow a non-member state to police its external border, she quickly agreed to that for the current protocol.

Then there is the G7. President Biden’s public pronouncements in line to date are reminiscent of a father dealing with two disputed sons: “I don’t care who started it, enough.” Privately, EU officials argue that the US is not as balanced and point directly at the UK.

If this is indeed the case, then perhaps a few calm words might be enough to turn the UK back. After all, we have a way. The illegal infringing clauses of the Internal Market Bill never became law. The EU ambassador is safe in London with the privileges he sought.

What President Biden would propose to do about the unionist fury that would result from such an outcome is anyone’s guess. But maybe, just maybe, instead of wiping out the trade deal he signed a few months ago, Boris Johnson will tell Northern Ireland that it has to settle for less sausage.

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