BRUSSELS (NWN) – It was late on Christmas Eve last year when the European Union and Britain finally struck a Brexit trade deal, after years of wrangling, threats and missed deadlines to seal their divorce. was after.
It was expected that the now-separated Britain and the 27-nation bloc would lead their ties to calm waters.
Don’t even think about it.
The diplomatic bitterness and bitter divorce were so stirred up that two months before another Christmas, the humiliation of betrayal and duality is blowing up again.
“It was written in the stars from the very beginning,” sighed Professor Hendrik Voss of Ghent University. “There were a lot of loose ends. Too many problems in Northern Ireland like fisheries and trade will always cause problems.
It was a financially minute but symbolically charged subject of fish that carried a trade deal until the last minute. And fishing is also now providing a wedge of division.
France this week was rallying its EU partners for a united stance and action if London will not give smaller French fishing boats more license to roam close to Britain’s crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey. , which hug the Normandy coast of France.
Last week in France’s parliament, Prime Minister Jean Casteux accused Britain of reneging on its promise to catch fish.
“We see in the most obvious way that Great Britain does not respect its own signature,” he said, “we only want a given word to be respected.”
In a relationship where both parties often fall back on clichés about each other, Castex was recalling the centuries-old French acronym “Perfidius Albion,” a nation that can never be trusted.
His Europe minister, Clement Bunin, added this late on Monday. “The EU faithfully implements the agreement with the United Kingdom. We expect the same from the UK.”
Across the English Channel, Brexit supporters in British politics and media often portray a sly EU, deeply hurt by Britain’s decision to leave, and doing its best to make Brexit less of a success by removing bureaucratic hurdles. Used to be.
The schism has crystallized in the escalating battle over Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK to share a land border with the EU country. Under the most delicate and controversial part of the Brexit deal, Northern Ireland remains inside the EU’s single market for goods trade to avoid a hard border with EU member Ireland.
This means that customs and customs checks must be carried out on some goods going to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, despite the fact that they are part of the same country.
The rules aim to prevent Britain from entering the EU’s tariff-free single market while keeping an open border on the island of Ireland – a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process.
The UK government soon complained that the systems were not working. It said the rules and restrictions impose cumbersome red tape on businesses. Nothing less than a belligerent metaphor, 2021 has already brought a “sausage war”, with Britain asking the EU to ban processed British meat products such as sausages entering Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s British federalist community says the Brexit deal undermines the peace process by undermining Northern Ireland’s ties with the rest of Britain.
Britain accused the EU of being unnecessarily “purist” in implementing the agreement, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, and says major changes are needed to make it work.
The block has agreed to look into the changes, and is due to present proposals on Wednesday. Before that move, Britain raised the stakes again, calling for even more sweeping changes to the jointly negotiated deal.
In a speech in the Portuguese capital Lisbon on Tuesday, UK Brexit minister David Frost will say the EU should also remove the European Court of Justice as the final arbiter of trade-related disputes in Northern Ireland.
This is a demand on which the EU is highly unlikely to agree. The bloc’s supreme court sees free trade as the pinnacle of the single market, and Brussels has vowed not to dilute its own order.
“No one should have any doubt about the seriousness of the situation,” Frost will say in Lisbon, urging the EU to “show ambition and willingness to tackle the fundamental issues at the heart of the protocol chief”.
Frost plans to say that if there is no solution soon, the UK will implement a clause that allows both parties to suspend the agreement in exceptional circumstances.
This would send already bad relations into a deep freeze and could lead to a trade war between Britain and the bloc – one that would do more damage to Britain’s economy than that of its larger neighbour.
Some EU observers say Britain’s demand to remove court oversight shows it is not serious about making the Brexit deal work.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney accused Britain of “shifting the playing field” and rejecting EU proposals without looking at it.
“This is being seen as the same pattern over and over again across the EU – the EU tries to solve the problems, the UK rejects the solution before it is published and asks for more,” Coveney said. said.
Jill Lawless reported from London.
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