by Frank Schnittger
Wed May 18th, 2022 at 10:43:24 AM EST
The Boris Johnson government has once again signalled its intention to break international law and its treaty obligations to the EU by introducing domestic legislation to over-ride parts of the protocol and to annul the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over protocol related matters. This is in addition to its current unilateral and illegal extension of grace periods on protocol implementation and its failure to honour agreements on data sharing and building facilities for goods inspections.
Boris Johnson has stated that he doesn’t think the EU will retaliate in any way. He could be forgiven for forming this view because the EU paused legal actions to redress current UK flouting of the protocol and has continued to talk meekly about addressing any issues which might arise out of the implementation of the protocol. He also has the chutzpah to claim that the Protocol lacks support in the Northern Ireland despite 56% of the electorate voting for pro-protocol parties with the main anti-protocol party, the DUP, reduced to 21% of the vote. He has continued to side openly with the DUP despite the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement requiring the UK government to act impartially and give equality of esteem to both political traditions in the north.
Fintan O’Toole (Truss’s latest take on NI protocol reveals what is really going on, Irish Times, Opinion, 17th. May) argues that the UK government’s real intention is negotiate Free Trade Agreements with southern hemisphere countries which promise them back door access to the Single Market through N. Ireland in return for free UK access to their markets. And even if this turns out not to be the case, you can be sure any mitigations secured for Larne will soon be demanded for Dover as well. This is all about regaining Britain’s access to the Single Market without having to agree to the Four Freedoms – the free movement of goods, capital, services and people. The Northern Ireland peace process is simply the wedge issue chosen to achieve this.
One of the main benefits of Brexit was always supposed to be the scrapping of Common Agricultural Policy subsidies on agricultural produce and their replacement by cheaper food sourced on world markets. The fact that this would fatally undermine British agriculture is of little concern to Conservatives because of its small contribution to British GDP, but N. Ireland agriculture is a much more important component of the Northern Ireland economy and society. How will Northern Ireland farmers fare when faced with cheaper imports from abroad and from CAP subsidised Irish farmers?
The EU is an alliance of states based on trust, the adherence to treaties, and the rule of law. It has no army to enforce its Treaties. The maintenance of EU food quality and security standards has always been an important component of its commitment to European farmers, consumers, and the general economy. If the EU will not now act to protect its laws, security, and economies then what is the point of the EU?
If the EU wants to be taken seriously by Boris Johnson et al, it will have to act decisively in defence of its legitimate interests. The time for talking softly is over. It is time for the EU to wield the big stick of trade sanctions until Boris Johnson realises that breaking the Withdrawal Agreement and the Belfast Good Friday Agreement carries a huge cost for the UK as a whole.