Joe Biden and Boris Johnson want to present a new Atlantic Charter that defines the common ambitions of both countries, as a prologue to the summit of the Group of the Seven most powerful countries in the West, which is being held this weekend in Cornwall. But the anger between the European Union and the United Kingdom over the implementation in Northern Ireland of the Withdrawal Agreement disrupts the start of the summit of rich and democratic countries.
The Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, expressed himself with diplomatic satiety after his meeting with Frost in London. We are at a crossroads. Trust must be restored, “he told a press conference. And later, he stressed that “our patience is really wearing thin.” Frost published a long list of pending issues and called for urgent responses from the EU.
Central in the resolution of the legal problem, which is transferred to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, would be the existence of two comparable systems of sanitary and phytosanitary rules. They would allow, according to Sefcovic, to eliminate 80% of the documents needed now to send products between two parts of the United Kingdom. Frost says he has suggested an equivalency agreement, but the EU does not reply.
Northern Ireland is simultaneously part of the EU customs union and the British, after the ‘Brexit’. The region, which is slowly recovering from the political bankruptcy and violence that plagued it for four decades, is being shaken by the new circumstances. Pro-British Unionist leader Arlene Foster has been brought down by her party and her replacement, Edwin Poots, vows to end the Protocol.
Unionists may be right when they claim that the circumstances they are in now are due to the UK and the European Union surrendering to the threat of resuscitation of the violent conflict if a trade boundary was created between the north and south of Ireland. But the two parties finally reached an agreement after a long negotiation.
Sefcovic reproaches London for exhaustive dialogueBritish negotiators told the EU they were ready, when they weren’t ready at all. Blaming the EU for the instability of Poots’ party, an ardent advocate of tougher Brexit, sounds strident. Frost recently criticized the EU for acting with “legal purism”.
Both Johnson and Frost have threatened to repeal aspects of the Brexit deal. Sefcovic affirms that already they are breaching and that it will respond “firmly” if London breaks the law. In this unpleasant context, Johnson receives Von der Leyen, Markel, Macron and Gradi in Cornwall this Thursday. And also Joe Biden, on his first trip abroad.
The president of the United States affirmed in 2019 that the British leader and the then occupant of the White House, Donald Trump, are clones “physically and emotionally.” He does not like ‘Brexit’ either. And he has declared himself “Irish” more than once. Their ancestors fled from an Ireland that suffered a great famine, partly caused by the British rulers.
Johnson says he is not concerned because “the solution is simple.” The prime minister maybe captivate Biden too, but, for the moment, his National Security adviser, Jake Sullivan, affirmed in Washington that the president will express in his European route “his deep concern” about the consequences of “Brexit” and will ask the two parties to preserve the Agreement on Holy Friday.
In August 1941, with Hitler’s Army in Slomensk, halfway between Minsk and Moscow, and London and other British cities being regularly bombed by the Luftwaffe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill signed an eight sentence manifesto, which contained some ideas that would be fundamental in the postwar world. Johnson has remembered that episode to get rid of the worn out British endeavor that every meeting between the high dignitaries of Washington and London ends with the former declaring that the relationship between the two countries is special. To avoid that drink, he has negotiated with Biden a new Atlantic Charter, perhaps with the ambition to define the post-pandemic world.