For two and a half months, following the temporary entry into the trade agreement between the UK and the EU, things were relatively quiet. Brexit and its aftermath have almost disappeared from Brussels. But now the controversy between the EU and Great Britain is erupting again. There is talk of playful beliefs, broken contracts and legal action. Why so much drama all of a sudden?
The UK will not be able to implement the terms of the Brexit agreement as quickly as planned. A transition period was agreed until the end of March to properly regulate trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, forming the United Kingdom together.
It is now over and the UK government sees great difficulties in enforcing these restrictions on northern Irish ports. That is why the British Minister in charge, David Frost, unilaterally announced that he would extend the transition period until October 2021.
Maros Sefkovic, Vice President of the European Commission: London violates agreements
Brussels feels betrayed, even Belfast
This unilateral move caused outrage in the EU. Maros Shefkovic, vice president of the EU Commission, which is otherwise cautious, spoke of “breach of treaties” and “breach of international law.” The path of “creative collaboration” in responsible bodies was abandoned. Words are now in action: the European Union has launched a crackdown on Great Britain. At the same time, Shefkovic called on British Brexit representative David Frost to refrain from unilaterally declaring tariff relief for agricultural and food transport to Northern Ireland until October 1.
In Northern Ireland, in particular, a politician foams. Arlene Foster, the leader of the trade unionist group, which emphasizes its close relationship with Great Britain, accused the EU of being inflexible and ignoring practical problems, even the crisis, that would create restrictions on Northern Ireland. “The EU will do nothing,” Foster said.
Premier Johnson and his Brexit minister Frost (right): International practice
In Brussels, people are referring to the Brexit Accords as cool, which provides that there should be no strict border between the EU member republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Instead, Northern Ireland joins Ireland in the EU’s duty-free and unregulated domestic market.
At the same time, however, a customs and goods border was formed in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The British government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson also endorsed the practice on behalf of Northern Ireland. This complex arrangement aims to preserve the trembling peace in Northern Ireland, which is also based on economic relations with Ireland, the European Union and the open borders.
In fact, cargo restrictions have been suspended anyway following threats by pro-British Northern Irish operatives against customs officials in January.
The peace process in danger?
Charges fly back and forth. Both sides view the bloody civil war between trade unions and separatists in Northern Ireland as a threat to peace, which ended with hard work on Good Friday 1998.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to reduce the problem in London. One can find solutions that work with “common sense” and good will. Government officials said the UK had not breached any agreements. Unilateral extensions of the Middle Ages are very common internationally. Interpretation of the law not shared by EU diplomats in Brussels.
Unionist Paul McCann says the island has been in turmoil since an English monarch conquered Ireland in 1690.
There is also excitement in Ireland, an EU country with a single national border with the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland). Irish European Minister David Byrne said it would be very dangerous if the British acted alone now, especially considering Northern Ireland.
“If the British want a permanent dispute with the EU, please! But exclude Northern Ireland from the game.” The source of the problems is Brexit itself, the Northern Ireland protocol solution with provisions on product controls in the Irish Sea, and only one. “This behavior is not expected from a country like Great Britain,” said Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
A “wall of peace” further separates pro-British and pro-Irish areas in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland
What is happening now? Not at first. The European Parliament postponed the final approval of the Brexit trade agreement in protest of the move from London. The vote was actually scheduled for this month. This agreement is only in effect temporarily because it was sealed only on Christmas Eve, a week before the final Brexit.
In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, paramilitary groups loyal to the Union with Great Britain have declared the Brexit deal null and void. They wrote in an open letter that they would no longer support the 1998 “Good Friday Agreement”. However, they did not want to act violently, but wanted to oppose the Brexit protocol in Northern Ireland.
At another stage, the UK and the EU are still negotiating market access to EU financial markets for London banks. We must proceed here first. How long? The EU certainly sees approval for “City of London” as an ace in Brexit poker.
An EU envoy summed up the events in Brussels as follows: After two and a half months of Brexit practice, hope has been shattered.