by Frank Schnittger
Tue Sep 8th, 2020 at 03:10:05 PM EST
The UK is to unveil internal market legislation tomorrow (9/9/20) which will break international law albeit in what they describe as a limited way. Specifically it will abrogate sections of the Withdrawal Agreement which require the UK to implement customs controls at the N. Ireland Great Britain sea border thus providing back-door access to the Single Market for British goods - whatever any trade agreement might say.
This will come as little surprise to the EU. Boris Johnson has always said there will be no paperwork for N. Ireland firms exporting to Great Britain and has opposed the setting up of an EU office in Belfast to monitor same. The corollary is that British firms will also have unhindered to the N. Ireland Market, and hence the Single Market through the open Irish border.
Quite why the UK government thinks the EU will continue to negotiate with the UK on a trade agreement while the UK unilaterally abrogates part of the last agreement - the Withdrawal Agreement only recently signed and ratified is far from clear. Irish government sources have been seeking to downplay the controversy, saying it may only be a bit of sabre rattling in the run up to the end of the Trade negotiations due to recommence today.
But it also raises questions as to why anyone would want to negotiate a trade deal with the UK government if it can unilaterally abrogate an international Treaty negotiated only last year. The UK seems to think that in the event of no deal it will be able to continue to trade with the EU, just like Australia, under WTO rules. But why should the EU uphold WTO rules if the UK has just abrogated their bilateral agreement. I can see all British goods being stopped at Calais leading to tailbacks all the way from Dover to the M25 around London.
Boris Johnson seems to be following the Trump play-book of ripping up international treaties he doesn't like. But perhaps he should have noticed that no one is rushing to negotiate new deals with the US. For all his self-image as the supreme deal maker, Trump has singularly failed to come to any significant agreements with anyone else - bar his allies like Netanyahu. Even the much trumpeted US/UK trade deal isn't making much progress as Britons contemplate the delights of chlorinated chickens on their supermarket shelves.
The The head of the UK's government legal department has quit over the proposed abrogation of parts of the Withdrawal agreement. Sir Jonathan Jones is the sixth senior Whitehall official to resign this year, amid growing tensions between the prime minister and staff at the top of the civil service.
Quite why Boris Johnson and his lead negotiator, Lord Frost, think this will result in a more conciliatory response from the EU is difficult to fathom. The EU has already taken a hard line with Switzerland after voters there voted to abrogate parts of free movement agreements with the EU. The EU is nothing if not an extremely rules based union of countries, and expecting it to bend its rules to facilitate an ex-member would strike at the very heart of all the compromises member states have had to make in pursuit of that Union.
This is not going to end well.