Tony Blair discusses 'irreversible' Brexit problem
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Tensions between London and Brussels soared after talks between the UK Brexit minister Lord Frost and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on Wednesday collapsed over a solution to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The EU 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”.
Lord Frost has refused to rule out the prospect of the UK unilaterally delaying the imposition of checks on British-made sausages and other chilled meats due to come into force at the end of this month.
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.
Dr Steve McCabe, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Brexit Studies, Birmingham City University, warned distrust between communities in Northern Ireland has increased over recent weeks, as the row between London and Brussels continues to simmer.
He has called for a “greater desire to engage in constructive language” but warned rumblings from the EU are Mr Johnson could ramp up action against Brussels as soon as Mr Biden returns to the US “that may make relationships even worse than they are already”.
The Brexit expert told Express.co.uk: “There is a standoff, ostensibly based on adherence of the EU’s food hygiene rules, which heightens the tension between the UK and EU.
“Though some trivialise this as a war of words over sausages, worryingly, distrust between communities in Northern Ireland has been increased.
“What is required on both sides is a greater desire to engage in constructive language and act in a way that recognises the potential for the current situation to be used by those with malign intent.
“President Biden’s entreaty to Johnson, matched by the conciliatory words from European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, who is in Cornwall attending the G8 summit may provide the window of opportunity to create radical and creative solutions.
“Soundings from the EU fear that as soon as Air Force One’s wheels are no longer in contact with British soil, Johnson will engage in further action that may make relationships even worse than they are already.”
But Dr McCabe has warned the Prime Minister against taking such aggressive action, warning “old fault lines and mistrust experienced during Brexit” could once again emerge, with the EU possibly abandoning its commitment to the post-Brexit trade deal.
He added: “The EU, an organisation which is explicitly bureaucratic, will see any further unilateral action as an act of bad faith from a country that was, until 31st January 2020, a member.
“There is a danger that old fault lines and mistrust experienced during Brexit will re-emerge, and a de facto ‘no deal’ in which the EU abandons its commitment to the agreement signed on the afternoon of 24th December 2020 may occur.
“This would plunge trade into uncertainty and create the potential for considerable disruption.”
But Dr McCabe believes the Prime Minister understands the consequences of risking a trade war with the EU as it would come at an “extremely high cost”.
He added Mr Johnson will know any further escalation in tensions over the Protocol could threaten a trade deal between the UK and US.
The Brexit expert said: It’s important to remember that at the heart of the current dispute is the sanctity of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement that, imperfect as it may be, has enabled both communities in Northern Ireland to enjoy 23 years of peace.
“For those old enough to remember the ‘bad old days’, particularly the worst years of the early 1970s, this would have seemed inconceivable.
“Allowing implementation of the Protocol, concerned with food safety but, crucially, about avoiding the need for checks on goods crossing the border between NI and the Republic of Ireland, seems illogical whatever the arguments from both sides otherwise.
“Further, Boris Johnson will be assumed to want to ensure he maintains a good working relationship with the UK’s old ally, the US.
“This will be essential if he wishes to negotiate a trade deal with the US.”
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