Home Economy Sefcovic walked steadily in search of the Northern Ireland breakthrough

Sefcovic walked steadily in search of the Northern Ireland breakthrough


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Brussels argues that a high-level Brexit-negotiating dinner is a thing of the past – but much regarding the first months of the new EU relationship with Britain has not gone as expected.

EU Brexit Commissioner Maros Sefcovic will meet opposite David Frost in Brussels tonight to grasp progress in negotiations on how to apply the two sides Brexit deal to Northern Ireland, with both sides looking how to reduce stress after deeply disturbing situations. violence in the region.

The first few months after the end of Britain’s post-Brexit transition are considered by many to be very difficult, but few on the EU side imagine that at this stage, the bloc will have continuous legal procedures. against the British government for violating the Northern Ireland protocol. . They also did not imagine that the European Parliament would not yet ratify the two sides’ trade deal to oppose British moves, or that. ambassador will get cold shoulders for arguing over protocol privileges.

Most importantly, the EU had been desperately hoping that Brexit would not cultivate this kind of flare-up tension into violence in Northern Ireland this month – indeed a result they were trying to avoid through the protocol, which has criticized unity politicians. For a lively sense of the forces behind the riot, look no further than Laura Noonan’s piece of insightful report to the FT on the role of social media and criminal gangs in stirring tension.

That backdrop means the pressure to force Sefcovic and Frost to understand how to apply the protocol is enormous, but Brussels finds himself constrained.

The European Commission is acutely aware of the risk that Brussels will be blamed for the unpredictable fluctuations and business losses resulting from placing the trade border in the Irish Sea. EU policymakers complained that Boris Johnson and his government were too reluctant to openly present what the protocol’s reality would be like checking cargo moving between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. UK.

Christophe Hansen, MEP leader on Brexit on the European Parliament’s trade committee, told FT on Wednesday that “the general situation we are facing is mainly because the UK government has never owned a Brexit type. that they signed. come”.

This is evidenced by Brussels’s repeated proposal that the solution to many of the UK’s problems with the protocol would be to register the bloc’s animal health standards through a veterinary treaty, but the UK has rejected such “dynamic alignment” with EU rules.

With such a move in the present time, the European Commission is well aware that its maneuverability is extremely limited, for example by demonstrating leniency towards food safety requirements for food safety. with goods entering Northern Ireland from the UK. France is always ready to remind Brussels that this protocol is applied both to avoid borders on the Irish island and to protect the internal EU market from illegal intrusion of goods.

Brussels earlier this year was also bitterly outraged by being blinded by Johnson in his decision to unilaterally extend the grace period on protocol bureaucratic requests, with such moves leaving the bloc with no option. What more politics than to initiate legal action to sustain the deal.

The mantra from EU officials in recent days is essential that “pragmatic” solutions still ensure that the protocol, with the animal health and customs inspection system, protects the market. single, fully applicable. UK Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis liked to talk about the “flexible and flexible” approach to applying trade agreements.

Once Sefcovic and Frost settle down for dinner, they’ll become aware of the plethora of work to do, such as discussions on how to deal with bureaucracy about food safety, are still at an early stage. But officials on both sides have praised the positive energy in recent days in “technical” discussions about how to apply the protocol. Frost will also meet with the Irish foreign minister on Thursday, Simon Coveney, who is in London for a high-level meeting.

At the end of the day, both sides have huge motivations – and little substitution – to make the protocol work. Another path of the hard border on the island of Ireland, violence, trade turmoil and a broken relationship is unthinkable.

“What we hear is the overall temperature of the [EU-UK] Hansen said.

“Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, it is a different form of life, we are partners,” said Hansen. “I don’t see the EU blocking anything unnecessary if there is explanation and argument.”

Brexit in terms of quantity

The latest figures from France suggest EU trade with the UK may be recovering after falling in January. Eurostat will release EU-wide data later this week.

It’s worth remembering how drastically the trade between the two sides fell earlier this year. According to Eurostat data, EU exports to the UK fell 27% in January compared to the same month in 2020, while imports fell 59.5%, a much heavier decline than other major trading partners. Although the inventory reserve will have contributed to them.

FT’s Alice Kantor reported this week shipping difficulties and other non-tariff barriers hit French companies looking to do business in the UK, from wine sellers to machinery manufacturers. But great challenges will continue to arise as the UK gradually implements full customs checks on food and agricultural products.

One benefit to doing business would be the confirmation that the EU-UK trade deal negotiated last year would be permanently devalued. There is good news on that front, with the committees of the European Parliament set to pass the text today.

A full panel approval vote has yet to be scheduled pending review of the results of the Frost / Sefcovic dinner, the MEP has stressed that the UK’s clear commitment to adoption of the protocol is prerequisites for ratification, but Hansen said he hopes the vote can take place soon.

“Approval increases the legal security for businesses and that’s what our businesses need in this particular situation. [of the pandemic]”I said.

In any case, parliamentary disapproval this month will force the EU to seek a further extension from the UK government on the provisional adoption of the deal, a diplomatic awkward proposition everyone wants. avoid.

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