Brexit: The Northern Ireland Protocol Fuels Disputes

UK’s withdrawal from the EU led to an array of tensions between London and Brussels. Myriad political, cultural and economic conflicts have arisen in the post-Brexit period between the UK and the EU, all growing on a daily basis. Disputes between the UK and the EU over the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol have recently escalated, with London threatening Brussels and considering suspending parts of the agreement if necessary.

British Threats Against the EU for Use of Emergency Clause

The dispute between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol has posed a threat to both sides. In the case of the former, the UK has threatened to ignore Brexit provisions and decide independently and outside the framework of the agreements. UK’s Brexit minister, David Frost, told the House of Lords that the UK was not afraid of invoking Article 16 – the emergency suspension clause – of the trade and cooperation agreement (TCA) that Boris Johnson signed with Brussels last year. Frost warned that otherwise Brussels would make a serious mistake. He added that the European Commission should take part in the actual negotiations.

Frost had recently said that without major changes to the legal text of the protocol, London would consider activating Article 16 of the EU-UK agreement to suspend parts of it. Such a move is permissible in cases where serious economic, social or environmental problems may arise, and the European Commission is likely to challenge London’s decision, in which case it is likely to be arbitrated with a risk of trade sanctions. These remarks show that tensions between the two sides are escalating and it is not unlikely that they will ignore part of the agreement between them in the near future.

The Northern Ireland Protocol Is Causing Tensions Between the EU and the UK

With UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the two sides reached an agreement on the nature of their relationship, which many political experts believe was flawed and did not serve the interests of both sides; especially, many believe that UK’s interests in this agreement have been ignored. The purpose of the Northern Ireland Protocol is to ensure that there is no trade control between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as a member of the EU, despite its choice. The protocol is a precondition to protect a fragile peace in a region which was once embroiled in a civil war, and has now become a source of tension. Instead, goods imported from England, Scotland or Wales to Northern Ireland must now be controlled. This creates problems for domestic trade in the UK, for which London and Brussels blame each other.

European Commission Opposes Renegotiation of Northern Ireland Protocol

By threatening that the UK is ignoring the terms of the agreement with the EU, the union decided to use all the means at its disposal to prevent UK’s sabotage and lawlessness and adhere to the agreement. The European Commission has recently announced its readiness to offer practical solutions to these disputes, but opposes renegotiating the Northern Ireland Protocol as London wishes. Andreas Michaelis, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, said: “It seems we are entering a new phase with regard to the Northern Ireland Protocol. “Just as the EU becomes more pragmatic and understanding, the UK adopts a less flexible line. Call that joint implementation.” Catherine Colonna, France’s ambassador to the UK, said: “The reason the UK is so belligerent is precisely because the EU is so accommodating”. This is an opinion which is heard increasingly here. “Troubling.”

Although the EU is working harder to be more understanding and pragmatic, the UK is taking a less flexible stance. The EU has recently refused to renegotiate the clauses on Northern Ireland with the UK in the British withdrawal agreement. The European Union and Britain must resolve their problems on Northern Ireland trading using the protocol agreed between them, the EU’s Brexit coordinator, Maros Sefcovic, said, rejecting a British demand to renegotiate it. He stressed that the Northern Ireland Protocol and other clauses of the agreement could not be renegotiated in any way. A few weeks ago, the European Commission issued a series of proposals aimed at facilitating the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which London called insufficient due to the scale of the problems. A UK government spokesman said the two sides needed comprehensive and lasting solutions instead. It now appears that the two sides are unable to offer an agreed-upon solution, and tensions have thwarted diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute.

Food Shortages in Northern Ireland in the Post-Brexit Period

UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the tightening of border regulations have caused the country to face a variety of problems in providing food for its citizens, and the number of problems is increasing day by day. With the UK leaving the EU, it faces new challenges on its border with Ireland. The Irish-Northern Ireland border was one of the main reasons for the tensions and the prolongation of negotiations between the UK government officials and the EU during the Brexit talks; it was difficult to reach an agreement. Following the finalisation of the agreement last year, British citizens in Northern Ireland faced many food shortages. The main reason was to check and inspect products that had to cross the border of the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, to reach Northern Ireland.

After an 11-month transition period, the UK finally withdrew from the Customs Union and the European Single Market on 1 January 2021. But on March 16 last year, the EU announced that it had taken legal action against the UK for failing to comply with the terms of the agreement. The two sides are now at loggerheads over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, and neither side is willing to back down. These future problems have left the EU-UK relationship in a state of ambiguity in the post-Brexit period, and it is unclear what will happen in their relationship in the near future.

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