Brexit threat: EU tipped for full-blown trade war with UK after Christmas impasse

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Since the UK left the 27-member trading bloc last year, several issues have remained to be ironed out between both sides. One of the largest sticking points is the part of the Brexit agreement covering Northern Ireland. Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the EU insisted on strict customs checks on certain goods coming into the territory from Britain in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

However, the invisible trade barrier down the Irish Sea has created chaos for businesses as certain products such as chilled meats have been slapped with restrictions.

Negotiations over the future of Northern Ireland have rumbled on in the run-up to Christmas, sustaining the tension between the UK and the EU.

Both sides were recently tipped for a “full-blown trade war” by academics Amelia Hadfield and Christian Turner.

The pair analysed the “Brexit spats” between London and Brussels since 2017, which they claimed would likely ramp up after a “pre-Christmas impasse”.

Their paper, ‘Brexit Spats with the EU – Britain’s New Christmas Tradition?’, was published in the journal, ‘Political Insight’ in November.

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They wrote: “At present, the result is the familiar pre-Christmas impasse.

“The UK continues to view the Protocol as fundamentally unworkable, contributing directly to growing instability within its own Union.

“Regardless of what was signed, the consequences arising from its implementation now illustrate to the British side that ‘the original agreement was politically unacceptable’.”

The academics claim both sides have been close to a breakthrough in the talks to alleviate some of the trade issues concerning Northern Ireland.

They highlighted how hauliers and shipping companies want a major reduction in the amount of paperwork, time and costs associated with trade flows between the territory and the rest of the UK.

However, their paper also read: “Realists, however, suggest that time is running out.

“And that failing to nail down an agreement will provoke anything from ongoing spats to a full-blown trade war.

“Add to that the potential of a power vacuum arising from a collapsed Northern Irish assembly.

“And the prospect of a repeat of the loyalist rioting seen in Northern Ireland in April – and the stakes become very high indeed.”

The UK now has a new lead voice in the Northern Ireland negotiations – Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

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She will now spearhead talks with the EU after the chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost resigned from his role last week.

Just days after being handed her new brief Ms Truss issued a stark warning to the EU over the Northern Ireland situation.

She reiterated the UK’s threat that it will unilaterally suspend parts of its agreement with the EU after her first call with her counterpart from the bloc, Maroš Šefčovič (pictured), on Tuesday.

She said: “The UK position has not changed.

“We need goods to flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, end the role of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) as the final arbiter of disputes between us, and resolve other issues.

“We must pick up the pace on talks in the New Year. Our preference remains to reach an agreed solution.

“If this does not happen, we remain prepared to trigger Article 16 safeguards to deal with the very real problems faced in Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.”

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