Brexit: David Frost on Theresa May's EU negotiations
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Earlier this month, tensions between Britain and the European Union surged after talks between UK Brexit minister Lord Frost and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic over a solution to the implementation of the controversial Protocol ended in stalemate. Brussels has threatened to launch a trade war against Britain if it does not implement checks on goods entering Northern Ireland under the terms of the Brexit deal, with Mr Sefcovic warning after the meeting with Lord Frost that patience with the UK is wearing “very, very thin”. Officials from the UK and EU are expected to continue this week as they desperately attempt to find a solution to the issue.
Both sides have so far been unwilling to stand down from their respective positions on the implementation of the Protocol, sparking fears a hugely impactful trade war may be imminent.
Under the terms of the Brexit trade agreement struck at the end of last year, the UK and EU can impose tariffs on the other’s exports for breaching the pact, pending independent arbitration.
Now Prime Minister Mr Johnson has been firmly warned not to retaliate against any punishment inflicted by the EU as it would not sit well with countries throughout the world and could jeopardise trade deals the UK is attempting to strike throughout the world.
Alistair Jones, Associate Professor and University Teacher Fellow, Department of Politics, People and Place at De Montfort University, Leicester, told Express.co.uk: “Any attempt to retaliate would be a disaster.
“The rest of the world would see the UK making an agreement with the EU, then failing to abide by said agreement (even though it was ratified in the UK Parliament) and trying to pick a fight because they do not like what they have agreed or were unaware of the consequences of said agreement.
“It will do nothing for the UK’s international credibility or the attempts to strike deals with other countries.”
Professor Jones warned the EU has the “upper hand and holds all the cards” in the simmering dispute with the UK over the implementation of the Protocol, adding Britain will eventually be forced to “back down”. .
He said: “Either the Protocol is enforced by the UK (and the EU has the right to oversee the enforcement, as laid down in both agreements), and the UK government works out how to support the Northern Ireland economy without breaching Single Market rules), or the UK breaches the agreement, and the EU declares a dispute.
“All of this is clearly detailed in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Post-Brexit Trade Agreement.”
The politics expert added: “The EU is in the right. They were in the wrong over the vaccines issue earlier this year, when Ursula von der Leyen activated Article 16 and then retracted within hours of issuing it.
“In that circumstance, as she subsequently admitted, she was in the wrong.
“Currently, the EU has the upper hand and holds all the cards.
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“The UK has tried to bluff everything – for example, asking for extra time before enforcing the agreement.
“Lord Frost has suggested the EU is in the wrong by not allowing any flexibility.
“They do not need to, as the Protocol was approved by Parliament. The UK will have to back down.”
Professor Jones has no doubt the EU will follow through with its threat of punishing the UK if they don’t change their stance over the Protocol.
He concluded: “This is not about punishing the UK over Brexit (as many Brexiteers have suggested).
“It is about a Third Country which has struck and ratified an agreement with the EU which then fails to implement the decision.
“Any Third Country trying to do this – even the USA or China – would be punished.”
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