Ireland next! EU warned Irexit emerging as ‘credible’ future prospect – Brussels on alert
Andrew Marr reveals ‘problem’ with Northern Ireland Protocol
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The EU has told Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the bloc is ready to act “firmly and resolutely” to ensure the UK respects its commitments in the Northern Ireland Protocol. The UK is unilaterally planning to extend a “grace period” to allow Northern Irish shops to continue selling chilled meats, including sausages and mince, from Britain once it expires at the end of June. However, last week, the European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said they would “not be shy” in taking action to ensure that the UK abides by its international commitments.
The UK angered Brussels in recent months by unilaterally extending grace periods in the protocol on supermarket goods and parcels.
Mr Sefcovic added: “Unfortunately, we see numerous and fundamental gaps in the UK’s implementation – even though the protocol entered into force over 17 months ago.
“Mutually agreed compliance paths, with concrete deadlines and milestones for the UK to fulfil its existing obligations, would therefore be an important stepping stone – and, I believe, a credible outcome of this joint committee,” Sefcovic added.
“If this does not happen, and if the UK takes further unilateral action over the coming weeks, the EU will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations.”
In a recent report, though, Ray Bassett, the former Irish ambassador to Canada, warned Brussels that its behaviour could be making the case for an Irish Brexit stronger.
He explained: “Many in the Republic understand this and it is clear that the situation calls for direct talks between Dublin and London to sort out this local issue, with flexibility on all sides. Co-operation on an overhaul of the protocol could be the catalyst for a reset of Irish/British relations. That, however, is something that the EU will never countenance.
“Perhaps this would matter less if the EU was taking Dublin’s other interests more seriously, yet Brussels has time and again proved a poor partner.”
Mr Bassett noted Ireland, just like the UK, has extensive and rich fishing grounds and under the Common Fisheries Policy, the local fishing fleet is only allocated 15.5 percent of the stocks in Irish waters.
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This was partially compensated for by quotas inside UK waters but after Brexit, the Commission imposed very large cuts on the Irish allocation in the British maritime area, the largest cuts of any EU nation.
He added: “The interests of France, Spain and the Netherlands clearly trumped those of the Irish.”
Mr Bassett concluded in his piece for Briefings for Britain: “Ireland’s two main trading partners are the UK and the USA, with total non-EU trade accounting for well over 60 percent, by far the highest percentage of any EU country.
“The US and the UK are the largest overseas investors in Ireland and between them they receive the bulk of Ireland’s growing external investment. Ireland is part of the Anglosphere of English-speaking countries.
“There are other developments inside the EU which are not to the Irish public’s taste. The growing demand, especially by Germany, for a common foreign policy based on majority voting in the European Council, a push for greater militarisation of the EU, and Ireland’s growing net contribution to the EU budget will all place a strain on the traditional Irish pro-EU sentiment.
“These changes could yet cause an eventual rupture with Brussels. Irexit may be emerging as a credible prospect in the future.”
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Mr Johnson’s trade adviser Shanker Singham echoed Mr Bassett’s claims as he insisted the level of trust between Ireland and Brussels was never going to be the same after the EU’s blunder earlier this year.
At the end of January, the EU said it would be triggering an emergency provision in the Brexit deal to control COVID-19 vaccine exports, including the possible introduction of checks at the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland to prevent shipments entering the UK.
The move was immediately met with fierce condemnation from London, Belfast, and Dublin and the EU performed a swift U-turn.
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Mr Singham explained: “It was a spectacular blunder. It is quite hard to imagine doing anything worse than this.
“And the speed, in which they said they can under certain circumstances put a border on the island without consulting anyone…
“Well, it has without a doubt affected their relationship with Ireland significantly.”
The trade expert added: “The Irish government must be highly suspicious of anything the EU is doing or saying now.
“Because if I were them, I wouldn’t think the EU has necessarily my best interests at heart.
“Obviously, the EU has 27 member states with their own interests… so the notion that they would privilege the Irish has never made much sense.
“But it has now made the Irish understand they are not a priority in respect to the EU.”
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