A trade war between Britain and the EU is “inevitable” if the UK refuses to reverse its new demands for post-Brexit rules on Northern Ireland, officials warn.
Brexit Minister David Frost on Wednesday released a new “command document” that would radically rework the Northern Ireland Protocol, an agreement he himself negotiated and which only came into effect. January, effectively removing most of a trade border created in the Irish Sea.
But the proposal was quickly rejected by the EU. “We will not accept a renegotiation of the protocol,” Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission, said in a statement.
Trade officials and business leaders said The independent this time is running out to reach an agreement before the introduction of critical deadlines for additional processes that the UK has agreed to under the protocol.
They fear the UK government’s step could push the UK and the EU into a tit-for-tat trade battle.
A senior EU official said the UK’s Frost white paper undermined a more cordial tone that had been achieved over the summer – that the easing of relations had helped change the rules of the EU to facilitate the flow of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. There was “less chance” that the Brexit minister’s demands could be met, they said.
“We lack the means to engage productively, while we remain willing to do so. This document is unnecessary, unrealistic and a bad use of time. We will not hesitate to pursue further legal action if the UK fails to meet its international legal obligations, ”said the same official.
They added that this could include retaliatory tariffs affecting all UK exporters to the EU. Such a move could result in tariffs, key ingredients of a full-fledged trade dispute.
Separately, an Irish diplomat confirmed that if the measures suggested by Mr Frost were followed – in particular the demand that the protocol “no longer be monitored by EU institutions and courts of law” – a trade dispute would be inevitable. They added that any flexibility on the part of the EU must respect the basic principles of the agreement.
“If the UK seriously tries to avoid the governance structures of the protocol, a trade dispute will be almost inevitable. But we obviously hope that will not be the case, ”said the diplomat.
While the Brexit minister has refrained from invoking Article 16, a mechanism that allows parts of the protocol to be immediately suspended, Mr Frost said the circumstances “would justify” its use.
“It is clearly some kind of threat from London,” said Anton Spisak, former British Brexit negotiator and now political expert at the Tony Blair Institute.
He added: “This will add to the differences, to the idea that the UK is negotiating in bad faith to change the protocol. The destination of this is a trade war between the UK and the EU. “
He noted that the EU had already taken legal action against the UK in March following London’s decision to unilaterally delay customs checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain.
The Brexit divorce deal left Northern Ireland in the EU’s single goods market, but also in UK customs territory to avoid a border on the island of Ireland. This resulted in the creation of a trade border in the Irish Sea.
Many protocol deadlines are expected in the fall, adding time pressure to disagreements over the protocol and increasing the risk of escalating trade tensions. The halt of imports of British chilled meats to Northern Ireland from September has drawn particular attention, with complaints from retailer Marks & Spencer, but bigger hurdles loom, business leaders said. The independent.
From October 1, all commercial parcels sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will need to be declared to customs. By November, UK merchandise exporters to Northern Ireland will need to establish a base in the region or a ‘fixed place of business’ in order to meet the requirements for a trusted operator system to prove that goods will not enter the EU.
Yet rather than advocating for ways to reduce friction that were likely to be accepted, Mr Frost had inflamed relations, according to a person familiar with Northern Ireland business operations.
If the UK were to move forward with a rejected plan, it would shatter the protocol and the two key Brexit treaties, they said. “It breaks the Withdrawal Agreement, and there are provisions in the ATT [Trade and Cooperation Agreement] let the EU take tariff action. So it’s not just about businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland, but also UK businesses and consumers. I don’t think a lot of people see this danger.
A leader of a business lobby group echoed the comments, adding that the move was totally unrealistic: “The EU is not going to create a gaping back door to its single market.
They added that the EU was wary of the UK trying to prosecute a …
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This notice was published: 2021-07-21 19:00:29