Brexit: David Frost on Theresa May's EU negotiations
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Last month, tensions between Britain and the European Union surged after talks between UK Brexit minister Lord Frost and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic over a solution to the implementation of the controversial Protocol ended in stalemate. Brussels has threatened to launch a trade war against Britain if it does not implement checks on goods entering Northern Ireland under the terms of the Brexit deal, with Mr Sefcovic warning after the meeting with Lord Frost that patience with the UK is wearing “very, very thin”.
Officials from the UK and EU are expected to continue talks this week as they desperately attempt to find a solution to the issue.
Both sides have so far been unwilling to stand down from their respective positions on the implementation of the Protocol, sparking fears a hugely impactful trade war may be imminent.
Under the terms of the Brexit trade agreement struck at the end of last year, the UK and EU can impose tariffs on the other’s exports for breaching the pact, pending independent arbitration.
But Alistair Jones, Associate Professor in Politics and a University Teacher Fellow at De Montfort in Leicester, has warned the UK that Brussels “is in the right” and “holds all the cards” in the escalating row over the Protocol.
He also claimed the UK will “have to back down” and cautioned against Britain from retaliating against any punishment inflicted by the EU under the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Professor Jones told Express.co.uk: “The EU is in the right. They were in the wrong over the vaccines issue earlier this year, when Ursula von der Leyen activated Article 16 and then retracted within hours of issuing it.
“In that circumstance, as she subsequently admitted, she was in the wrong.
“Currently, the EU has the upper hand and holds all the cards.
“The UK has tried to bluff everything eg asking for extra time before enforcing the agreement.
“Lord Frost has suggested that the EU is in the wrong by not allowing any flexibility.
“They do not need to, as the Protocol was approved by Parliament.
He also warned: “The UK will have to back down.
“If the EU were to punish the UK, any attempt from Boris to retaliate would be a disaster.
“The rest of the world would see the UK making an agreement with the EU, then failing to abide by said agreement (even though it was ratified in the UK Parliament) and trying to pick a fight because they do not like what they have agreed or were unaware of the consequences of said agreement.
“It will do nothing for the UK’s international credibility or the attempts to strike deals with other countries.”
The latest warning directed at the Prime Minister comes after a new opinion poll revealed people in Northern Ireland are “highly exercised” and “evenly split” over the Brexit Protocol.
The survey by LucidTalk for a team of researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found a majority of people in Northern Ireland have concerns about the current impact of the Protocol.
But it also revealed recent protests in the country have “not led to any significant growth in the proportion of voters objecting to it”, suggesting that positions on the Protocol are “already quite well entrenched”.
Just over two-thirds of the 1,500 respondents believe Northern Ireland does not need “particular arrangements” for managing the impact of Brexit.
However, they are still divided on the Protocol itself as when asked whether the Protocol is appropriate for Northern Ireland, just under half (47 percent) agree that it is.
Only 43 percent believe the Protocol is beneficial for the country, whereas less than half (48 percent) think that it isn’t, and 56 percent agree it provides Northern Ireland with a unique set of post-Brexit economic opportunities.
Co-investigator on the project, Professor Katy Hayward, from Queen’s University Belfast, said people are highly exercised by the Protocol, both for and against – and in equal proportions.
She said: “The political tensions are compounded by the low levels of trust in the political parties when it comes to the Protocol, and by the fact that the Protocol is likely to feature heavily in the next Assembly election.”
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