W.hen American President Joe Biden travels to the UK for the G-7 summit on Friday, he should use his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss the consequences of leaving the EU. The sympathies of the declared opponent of Brexit of Irish descent clearly lie with the EU member state Ireland, but recently Biden also warned the European Union to show more pragmatism in the border traffic between the British main island and Northern Ireland. This has been more heatedly debated between the British government and the European Commission in recent days – with threats and warnings on both sides.
This Wednesday, the Vice President of the EU Commission Maroš Šefčovič will hold official talks in London. Previously, he spoke aggressively in the daily Telegraph, which is critical of the EU. “If the UK takes further unilateral steps in the coming weeks, the European Union will react quickly, harshly and consistently without hesitation to ensure that the UK meets its international obligations,” Šefčovič wrote in a guest post.
The government in London responded promptly. Agriculture and Environment Minister George Eustice accused the EU on Tuesday of not making serious efforts to implement the Brexit treaty in a “workable” way and to ensure the agreed “free access of goods to Northern Ireland”. “During the day, we have to ask ourselves whether it really makes sense to ban the sale of sausages and chunks of poultry that are made in Britain and are supposed to be sold somewhere in Northern Ireland – that is, without question, meschugge.”
The “Northern Ireland Protocol” in the Brexit treaty provides for certain deadlines during which various goods can pass the new goods border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain unhindered for a while. When the deadline for many agricultural products and postal parcels was due to expire at the end of March, London unilaterally decided to extend the exemption until October. Brussels then took legal action. At the end of June, the deadline for other products that enjoy high sales especially in the barbecue season, including sausages. In the past few days, London had publicly toyed with the idea of extending this deadline unilaterally, should no agreement be reached with the European Union beforehand.
America is the guarantor of the peace treaty
In Brussels there are fears of further breaches of the treaty and they argue with the protection of the EU internal market – Northern Ireland has been part of the British customs union since Brexit, but has remained part of the European internal market. The European Commission also accuses London of withholding customs data, contrary to the agreements, and of not having installed physical checkpoints. The British government, on the other hand, invokes the guarantee of free movement of goods in its own country and advocates more flexible implementation of the treaty, including digitizing the control process.
Boris Johnson’s negotiator David Frost – now ministerial – recently accused the European Union of “legal puritanism” and asked it to use “common sense” instead. London is particularly concerned that supply shortages could further aggravate the tense mood in Northern Ireland. In July, as every year, large marches by unionists, but also by nationalists, are expected – a tradition that often increases the willingness to use violence. Brexit has already demanded a political sacrifice. The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, was urged to resign by her party. At the end of the month, she will also leave the post of Prime Minister. Regional politician Paul Givan will take over your office.
The Northern Irish economy, on the other hand, pleads for an end to mutual accusations and for pragmatic solutions to be found. London and Brussels accuse each other not only of questionable interpretations of the exit agreement, but also of undermining the Northern Ireland peace treaty of 1998. That doesn’t make it any easier for Biden, who has repeatedly stressed America’s “unwavering” support for the Good Friday Agreement. The United States is a guarantor of the peace treaty. Recently, 25 Democrats and Republicans from both Houses of Congress called on the President to appoint a special envoy for Northern Ireland “to assist the peace process in troubled times”.