Almost two years after the UK left the EU and a year after the end of the transition period, things are not looking good between London and Brussels.
The year started with a new bureaucracy on certain products entering Northern Ireland from the British mainland.
It’s all part of the Northern Ireland Protocol that London signed as part of Brexit.
It keeps Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, in the European Union’s single market for goods. Brussels wants regulatory control over what enters the single market, so the protocol imposed controls on goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the British mainland.
So, to avoid a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Brexit created a de facto border in the Irish Sea.
London, despite signing the agreement, claims the protocol has overloaded companies with additional paperwork.
The UK wants to renegotiate the protocol, something Brussels has rejected. In late 2021, the can was launched en route to 2022.
Relations with China worsens
Europe relies heavily on China’s manufacturing power, but human rights issues have soured the relationship.
In March, the EU imposed sanctions on Chinese officials alleging alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region. The retaliation was swift: China blacklisted ten people, including MEPs, for the EU decision.
In November, the EU had announced a € 300 billion spending plan to help build infrastructure in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The goal is to counter Beijing’s own overseas investment plan, The Belt and Road initiative.
But that was not the only source of tension. At the end of the year with a minimum, Lithuania called for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
EU-Hungary clash for LGBT rights
Hungary again clashed with the EU over LGBT rights.
MPs passed a law in June that bans the use of LGBT content in schools. The purpose of the law was to fight pedophilia and protect children, said Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government.
The controversy was a topic at an EU summit in June and European leaders signed a letter declaring their support for the LGBT community.
Orban did not withdraw the legislation. Instead, he said, Hungary would hold a referendum on the issue so that Hungarians could decide for themselves.
The row of Poland
Along with Hungary, Poland is the other EU country at odds with Brussels.
Brussels and Warsaw are divided over the country’s democratic values, the independence of its judiciary, and LGBT issues.
Their relationship worsened in October when Poland’s constitutional court ruled that EU law in some cases did not have supremacy over Polish law.
“This ruling calls into question the foundations of the European Union,” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki responded. He said that the constitutional court “not only meets all the criteria for independence, but is a constitutional court that oversees the constitution and ensures that it remains the supreme law of the Republic of Poland.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism