Britain should not suspend the Northern Ireland agreement


In the tortuous negotiations on Brexit, the Boris Johnson administration believes it has learned an important fact: to adopt a tough strategy for EU work. It is convinced that it obtained concessions by threatening a no-deal exit at the end of 2019, and again last year by preparing to overturn a partial exit agreement signed a few months ago. As the post-Brexit reform negotiations with the Northern Ireland trade agreement appeared to be deadlocked, Downing Street stated that it was ready to activate a clause that would suspend key parts of the agreement. A strong negotiation strategy is one thing. Implementing the threat would be a serious mistake.

Like any “guarantee clause”, Article 16 protocol If the applicable agreement causes “serious economic, social or environmental difficulties” or reduces trade, both parties can use it. Corrective measures can be taken unilaterally, but they must be completely limited to the measures required to correct the situation. Last week, two buses were set on fire by masked men. The Chief Minister of Northern Ireland was forced to resign in the summer. Trade was restricted. Downing Street believed that the threshold had been reached to raise the alarm.

But this article should apply to unforeseen problems. The UK’s argument may be justified, that the EU applied the agreement in an excessively legalistic manner and only slowly offered compromises until last month. However, most of the British opposition to how the agreement works is completely predictable. It comes directly from the tough Brexit policy insisted by the Johnson administration. Unless the entire UK stays in the customs union with the EU, Northern Ireland must stay in the EU’s single commodity market to prevent the establishment of a destabilizing “hard” trade border with the Republic.

Downing Street in a July paper Five ideal changes to the agreement-including the removal of the European Court of Justice’s right to settle disputes-are equivalent to rewriting key elements. If the United Kingdom were not using Article 16 in a narrow, limited way, but trying to enforce these changes, it would go far beyond the purpose of the Article. This is tantamount to one party using a guarantee clause to terminate the transaction and force a renegotiation.

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For these reasons, the UK will almost certainly lose the subsequent EU legal action. But it will take time.At the same time, the British government hopes that it can establish facts on the ground and allow it to prove its Preferred method -In essence, the Irish Sea has no borders, but involves market surveillance-it is feasible. This will bring two unacceptable risks.

First of all, since maintaining the integrity of its single market is the creed of the European Union, it is not unthinkable-as the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Already warned ——The EU may respond Put aside Post-Brexit trade and cooperation agreement with the United Kingdom. This will take 12 months to take effect. But this will create a new potential “no agreement” cliff edge-just as supply bottlenecks, labor shortages and rising energy costs are creating a cost of living crisis. The damage to the economy and the political destiny of the government can be severe.

Second, it would undermine Britain’s credibility as a reliable partner in the global search for trade agreements. There is a negotiated solution to the friction in Northern Ireland, similar to the EU-Swiss veterinary and dispute settlement agreement. Downing Street has played chicken on the Brexit issue twice, and thinks Brussels has turned. It should not assume that it will happen a third time. In a frontal collision with a heavier vehicle, there is no doubt who will get worse.

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