British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reiterated that his Government will take unilateral decisions to alleviate the impact that the Irish Protocol to the European Union Withdrawal Agreement has on Northern Ireland’s trade and politics. Johnson’s warning followed his meetings with the European leaders present at the G7 summit, who have demanded that he comply with what was agreed.
The warning comes two weeks before the end of the grace period for the start of border controls on some meat products, when they enter Northern Ireland from Great Britain. A unilateral extension by London would prevent the “sausage war” in Ulster, but the EU would have threatened Johnson, according to “The Times”, with a “trade war.” That is, in the words of Ursula von der Leyen, with the sanctions contemplated in the Protocol.
The entanglement caused by ‘Brexit’ in the region has four-sided repercussions. The EU, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are directly affected, but ‘The Times’ has also given the warning of Washington’s diplomacy to that of London to safeguard the delicate balances of the 1998 peace agreement in the province .
Yael Lempert, ‘chargée d’affairs’ of the United States diplomatic legation in London – who has no ambassador after the political change in Washington – would have used the instrument of ‘démarche’, unusual among allies, to notify Johnson that the current administration wants a more balanced attitude in its decisions on Northern Ireland.
He would also have advanced a gesture that the Prime Minister of Ireland, Micheál Martin, has indicated as the route to follow. Lempert reportedly informed his interlocutors, including the negotiating minister with the EU, David Frost, that the United States does not believe that a veterinary approval agreement between London and the EU would prevent the signing of a transatlantic trade treaty.
The agri-food sector was the biggest technical obstacle in the negotiations for such a treaty between the Johnson administration and the Donald Trump administration. Biden hasn’t shown his predecessor’s enthusiasm for a trade deal. Accepting that the UK align itself with the EU sanitary and phytosanitary standards reveals a rare willingness to confront its domestic sector or an indirect message of disinterest in the treaty.
Both Frost and the EU negotiator, Maros Sefcovic, stressed at the end of their sterile meeting last Wednesday that a veterinary agreement would eliminate much of the controls that now hinder the Northern Irish economy. Where then is the problem in fulfilling the ‘Brexiter’ aspiration of substituting trade with the EU for greater diversity, with the United States as the greatest prize?
Johnson insisted that he does not want dynamic rule alignment with the EU for the whole of Britain. Frost proposes a reciprocal recognition of standards and “the identification and management of risks arising from changes” adopted by one of the parties. But trust has been broken. Johnson denounced in Cornwall that there are now more controls in Northern Ireland than in the port of Rotterdam. Sefcovic cannot comment. According to him, London does not give him the data on the controls it carries out.