Britain and the European Union failed on Wednesday to agree on solutions to facilitate post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland and exchanged threats in a deadlock that could darken an international summit on weekend.
Since Britain completed its torturous exit from the EU late last year, relations with Brussels have deteriorated further, with each side accusing the other of bad faith over part of their deal on the Brexit which covers the movement of goods to Northern Ireland.
The dispute has been dubbed the “sausage war” by British media because it affects the movement of chilled meats from Britain to Northern Ireland, a British province.
The dispute shifted into high gear on Wednesday, with Britain saying it could once again unilaterally extend a grace period by removing controls on certain foodstuffs, and the EU saying it could take action forward in court, a step that could end with customs duties and quotas. Read more
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the summit of the world’s seven largest advanced economies (G7) in southwest England to present what he calls “Global Britain”. He said he was not worried about the feud overshadowing the event. Read more
But he could receive a warning from US President Joe Biden, who the Times newspaper said will tell London to stick to a deal with the EU that was designed to protect a 23-year peace deal in Northern Ireland. Read more
UK Brexit Minister David Frost, who is expected to attend the summit and participate in talks with EU leaders, met with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic in London to discuss the issue.
“There haven’t been any breakthroughs. There aren’t any blackouts either, and we’re going to keep talking,” Frost told reporters. “What we must do now is find urgent solutions.” Read more
A UK source close to the talks said all options were on the table if there was no deal, including London extending a grace period that rolls back controls on certain food items transferred to Northern Ireland in the -beyond June 30. read more
Sefcovic responded similarly, saying the EU was considering advancing its legal challenge against Britain’s actions, which could lead to legal action by the fall or the possible imposition of tariffs. and quotas. Read more
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“The US administration and the US Congress are following this matter very closely,” Sefcovic said at a press conference.
“I’m sure the G7, as well as European leaders, would raise this issue because I think what we should be focusing on right now should be economic recovery … and how to form and forge this new strategic partnership between the L ‘EU and UK. Instead, we have these very difficult meetings. “
When asked if the G7 summit would be overshadowed by the feud, Johnson said: “I’m not worried about it.” He expressed optimism that a solution could be found, adding: “I’m very, very optimistic about this, I think it’s easily doable.”
Preserving the delicate peace in Northern Ireland without leaving the UK a backdoor into the EU’s single market across the Irish land border was one of the trickier issues of the Brexit divorce. Ireland is an EU member state.
The result was the protocol, which essentially kept the province in the EU customs union and adhere to many of its single market rules – which the rest of Britain left.
As Brussels is upset that London is breaking the protocol, Britain says it has no choice as some of the controls hamper supply to supermarkets in Northern Ireland.
He also pointed to rising tensions among pro-British trade unionists in the province, who say the protocol undermines the 1998 peace deal by loosening their ties with Britain.
Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, called for swift action to protect consumers in the province:
“We need immediate solutions to keep goods flowing now, and we need a breathing space so that the UK government and the EU can, in the longer term, find a viable solution.”
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