Trade war? UK and EU conflict over Northern Ireland threatens to escalate
With that message, Johnson added fuel to the fire in the dispute, which could easily turn into an international trade war.
The issue overshadows the G7 summit to be held in Cornwall this weekend. Johnson said in the margins of the meeting that the UK “will of course not hesitate to invoke Article 16” should the need arise.
He was referring to a special clause in the Brexit deal that allows both parties to withdraw if the implementation of the agreement would have negative consequences for them. These are serious economic, social or environmental problems that can persist for a long time.
The British Prime Minister pointed out that the EU itself invoked Article 16 in January over problems with vaccine deliveries. By setting up controls, Brussels then wanted to prevent corona vaccines from easily entering the United Kingdom via Northern Ireland. There was a lot of commotion about this among the British at the time. At the time, the accusation was also made that Article 16 was only used when it came out of the EU.
Johnson’s comments followed a series of face-to-face meetings he had with other European leaders. They urged him that Britain would stick to the Brexit agreements. “I’ve been talking to some of our friends here today who don’t seem to understand that the UK is one country, one territory,” Johnson said.
The dispute concerns Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom but borders Ireland which belongs to the European Union. In fact, there should be border controls on the border between those two areas. But that is very sensitive because years ago in peace talks it was agreed that the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland would remain free of controls.
This problem was circumvented in the Brexit deals by a British promise to establish domestic controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But London doesn’t want that right now. The British government decided unilaterally to postpone the introduction of these checks until October 1, much to the dismay of the EU.
French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly offered British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to restore relations with Britain if Johnson sticks to Brexit deals made with the European Union.
“The president told Boris Johnson that a reset of the Franco-British relationship is needed,” an insider told Reuters news agency. “This can happen provided he keeps his word to Europeans,” said the source, who also pointed out Macron spoke to Johnson in English.
Since Britain left the European single market at the beginning of this year, relations with the country bloc, and especially with France, have deteriorated. Macron has emerged as the most outspoken critic of London’s refusal to honor Brexit deals surrounding Northern Ireland. There are already rumors that the conflict could turn into a trade war if the British continue to flout trade regulations.