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Reality? June 10, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian/Observer at the weekend had a sharp column directed at the Tories over the Northern Ireland Protocol, where he noted that the US is now imposing pressure on the UK to adhere to the Protocol.

Fundamentally Johnson has to choose. As Jenkins notes:

Johnson’s entire approach to the Northern Ireland protocol has been to procrastinate. The reason is plain. He cannot both sustain Brexit and honour his pledge to keep trade open across the Irish Sea. Ever since partition, it’s been the case that if Ireland and Britain were no longer to trade freely with each other, the north would have to remain in one Irish market.


Ultimately, there are only two options. One is that the protocol becomes permanent and Northern Ireland does indeed become part of an all-Ireland integrated economy. For that there are any number of sound arguments, which Johnson is probably too gutless to grasp. The other is that Britain extends the Northern Ireland deal to the whole of the UK. In effect, it signs itself up to EU regulatory standards across the whole range of goods covered by last year’s “no tariff” deal. In other words, Johnson eats humble pie and negotiates a return, not to the EU but to some version of Europe’s common economic area.

I think there’s still scope for fudge in all this, one that will mask, as best as is possible, the former condition. I think it deeply unlikely that the UK will go for the latter. But I don’t think Jenkins is wrong in pointing to those two as being largely the choices. 

Tellingly, the narrative emanating from London is one which ignores entirely the reality that the UK and the EU negotiated the Protocol together – rather than this being imposed by diktat by the EU. Which makes these latest protestations that somehow it isn’t working out as planned baffling given that either the UK didn’t understand what it was negotiating (hardly an advertisement for the new independent post-Brexit Britain) or never intended to adhere to what it was negotiating (hardly an advertisement for the new independent post-Brexit Britain). That many of us will suspect it was the latter rather than the former is almost neither here nor there. This is the situation currently facing the UK and the EU.

One other point Jenkins makes is worth considering:

We have learned much in the past year. Brexit is not a disaster but nor is it a bonanza. There are no “great deals” to be done with the rest of the world. There is no such thing as trade sovereignty. The EU remains Britain’s biggest trading partner and trade with it has not been freed of bureaucracy by Brexit, but swamped and damaged by it. The EU may be partly to blame, but it has never had an interest in making Brexit easy. The naivety of Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost knew no bounds.

It is quite some achievement to actually increase bureaucracy in trading. The UK has managed that. Now it appears it will have to live with it.


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