Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatens to suspend part of the Brexit protocol if the European Union does not agree to a compromise in the conflict over compliance with the Brexit agreements around Northern Ireland.
With this message, Johnson added fuel to the dispute, which could lead to an international trade war. The issue overshadows the G7 summit in Cornwall this weekend. Johnson indicated in the margins of the meeting that the United Kingdom “will of course not hesitate to invoke Article 16” if necessary.
By doing so, PM referred to a special clause in the Brexit deal that would allow both parties to withdraw if the implementation of the agreement would have a negative impact on them. These are serious economic, social or environmental problems that can persist for a long time.
The UK Prime Minister pointed out that the EU itself already invoked Article 16 in January in relation to problems with vaccine supplies. By introducing controls, Brussels wanted to prevent coronavirus vaccines from entering the United Kingdom easily through Northern Ireland. There was a lot of commotion among the British at the time. It was also criticised at the time that Article 16 was only used when it was convenient for the EU.
Johnson’s remarks followed a series of personal meetings he had with other European leaders. They urged him to keep the Brexit agreements.
“I’ve been talking to some of our friends here today, who don’t seem to understand that the United Kingdom is one country, one territory,” Johnson said.
The dispute concerns Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, but borders Ireland which belongs to the European Union. So there should really be border controls at the border between those two areas. But that is very sensitive because, years ago, in peace talks, it was agreed that the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland would forever be exempt from controls.
This problem was circumvented in the Brexit agreements by a British commitment to establish internal controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But that’s not what London wants now. The UK authorities unilaterally decided to postpone the introduction of these controls until 1 October, to the EU’s displeasure.
French president Emmanuel Macron has reportedly offered British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to re-establish relations with Britain if Johnson continues to abide by the Brexit agreements made with the European Union.
“The president told Boris Johnson that a reset of the Franco-British relationship is needed,” an insider told Reuters. “This can happen provided he keeps his word to the Europeans,” said the source, who also pointed out that Macron spoke to Johnson in English.
Since Britain left the European Single Market at the beginning of this year, relations with the bloc and especially with France have deteriorated. Macron became the most outspoken critic of London’s refusal to respect Brexit agreements around Northern Ireland. There are already rumours that the conflict could lead to a trade war if the British continue to ignore the trade rules.