EU ambassador outlines plans to solve Brexit disputes
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Earlier this month, tensions between Britain and the European Union soared after talks between the UK Brexit minister Lord Frost and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic collapsed over a solution to the implementation of the controversial Protocol. Brussels has threatened to launch a trade war against Britain if it does not implement checks on goods entering Northern Ireland under the terms of the Brexit deal, with Mr Sefcovic warning patience with the UK is wearing “very, very thin”.
Both sides seemingly appear unwilling to stand down from their aggressive stances on the implementation of the Protocol, sparking fears that a dangerous and hugely impactful trade war may be imminent.
Under the terms of the Brexit trade agreement struck at the end of last year, the UK and EU can impose tariffs on the other’s exports for breaching the pact, pending independent arbitration.
Now Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned the EU will have no hesitation following through with its threat of retaliatory action – as proven with the bloc’s chaotic Covid vaccine rollout.
Earlier this month, Brussels launched legal action against AstraZeneca as part of efforts to force the vaccine maker to deliver 120 million doses of its vaccine to the bloc, by the end of June.
The EU lost that battle last week, with a court in Belgium ruling AstraZeneca still must deliver 80 million doses by September – significantly less than Brussels was demanding.
When asked if the EU will follow through with its threat to punish Britain over the Protocol, Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group think tank, told Express.co.uk: “Unfortunately from past experience the EU is likely to use every tool available to them to gain an advantage over Britain, even when it discredits them on the world stage, as we saw with the vaccine rollout.”
Alistair Jones, Associate Professor and University Teacher Fellow, Department of Politics, People and Place at De Montfort University, Leicester, has warned the EU has the “upper hand and holds all the cards”.
He has urged Britain to back down in the row, warning the EU will have no hesitation in punishing the UK.
Professor Jones told Express.co.uk: “They were in the wrong over the vaccines issue earlier this year, when Ursula von der Leyen activated Article 16 and then retracted within hours of issuing it. In that circumstance, as she subsequently admitted, she was in the wrong.
“Currently, the EU has the upper hand and holds all the cards.
“The UK has tried to bluff everything eg asking for extra time before enforcing the agreement.
“Lord Frost has suggested that the EU is in the wrong by not allowing any flexibility.
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“They do not need to, as the Protocol was approved by Parliament. The UK will have to back down.
He added: “This is not about punishing the UK over Brexit (as many Brexiteers have suggested).
“It is about a Third Country which has struck and ratified an agreement with the EU which then fails to implement the decision.
“Any Third Country trying to do this – even the USA or China – would be punished.”
Professor Jones warned any attempt from the UK to retaliate against any punishment from the EU would be a “disaster”, with the rest of the world not taking too kindly to Britain’s tactics.
He also warned there is no solution in sight to the row over the Protocol, as the UK does not want to be seen as weak and claimed “ultimately, the EU does not trust Boris Johnson” as he has “attempted to manipulate the EU into doing the reverse of what has been agreed”.
The politics expert said: “The UK government does not want to be seen to be backing down but they are defending the indefensible.
“There was speculation in the Irish press earlier this year (Irish Times, March 2021) that this could be the first step in the reunification of the island of Ireland, and that Boris Johnson would be heralded as the leader who enabled that to happen.
“Around 50 percent of the Northern Ireland community would fundamentally oppose any such move. If a referendum on reunification was to be suggested there is no knowing how sections of the Unionist community would respond.
He concluded: “Ultimately, the EU does not trust Boris Johnson.
“He has lied and attempted to manipulate the EU into doing the reverse of what has been agreed.
“Johnson has portrayed the EU as being in the wrong when they have abided by the letter and spirit of the agreement.
“It is no way to build any form of relationship.”
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