by Frank Schnittger
Sat Oct 16th, 2021 at 09:09:35 AM EST
The Irish Times: Britain, the EU and the NI Protocol
A chara, - Newton Emerson writes that "the fact that Frost is tearing up his own deal is a redundant complaint" ("Irish fury over Frost seems aggravated by London taking unionism's side", Opinion & Analysis, ,October 14th).
And yet Dominic Cummings has tweeted that the UK never intended to implement the protocol and Ian Paisley jnr has confirmed that Boris Johnson told him in October 2019 that he would tear up the protocol after signing it.
What is the point of negotiating with a counterparty which cannot be trusted to implement any deal they sign? Why is the EU still negotiating with a government which has now rejected the EU proposals out of hand before they had even been published?
Fool us once, shame on us [should read "shame on you"]. Fool us twice and the shame is all ours. The EU is demeaning itself and us. - Is mise,
I am well aware that diplomacy is ultimately a pragmatic business mediating the realities of relative power, and is infinitely preferable to war and other means of doing so. The EU is ultimately the fruit of such pragmatism and a determination to avoid the horrors of war and destructive competing nationalisms. At it's heart is a compromise between the competing interests of its member states in search of the realisation of their larger common interests.
It is simply not in the EU's DNA to take a confrontational approach to any issue - for fear of exacerbating the difficulties even further. That is not a DNA shared by the UK, however, which built an empire on military superiority and subjugating all those with differing interests. A British ex-paratrooper friend never fails to remind me of how warlike the British people are, always ready to poke their noses in other peoples business.
That confrontational tone is at the heart of Brexit and "Global Britain's" attempt to reassert itself as an independent player in world affairs. Little matter that it now requires the support of the USA in that endeavour, and that it is not necessarily a good idea to antagonise the EU, Russia, China, and former colonies like India all at the same time. Little matter that neither Britain's military nor its economic strength are sufficient to sustain such a role any more.
The rest of the world may may be laughing as BoJo the clown does his thing, but in Ireland it is no laughing matter. The attempt by his ministers to gin up sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland around the Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement is a scandal that should not be indulged or let go unchallenged. The EU may feel more comfortable in its usual pragmatic modus operandi, and it has bigger fish to fry in Poland and Hungary. But it is doing Ireland a grave disservice by failing to confront the flagrant perfidy of our larger neighbour. We have rather more experience of this sort of thing, and had thought we could count on the EU to fight our corner.
There are many practical issues with the Protocol which require pragmatic solutions, but the overriding principle is that "pacta sunt servanda": agreements must be honoured. The UK has shown bad faith in negotiations and not even an intention to implement what was agreed. There are still no proper customs facilities at Northern Ireland's ports and the agreed real time data transfer of customs information has never materialised. EU officials have even been denied an office in N. Ireland to oversee the process. The risks of large quantities of unauthorised goods leaking into the Single Market may be small, but they are and real, and there are currently no effective means of mitigating them.
The time has come for the EU Commission to show some backbone and demand the full implementation of the protocol. If the UK invokes article 16 to suspend parts of the protocol, the response must be robust and immediate: trade tariffs on UK goods until such time as the Protocol is fully implemented. Ireland may be caught in the cross-fire, but that is a price we will have to be prepared to pay. The integrity of the Single Market, the all-Ireland economy, and international law as contained in the Withdrawal Agreement must be upheld.
Otherwise, what is the EU for?