Litigation escalates between London and Brussels over Northern Ireland

► Why was the Northern Irish case invited to the G7?

Litigation escalates between London and Brussels over Northern Ireland

This thorny subject was not on the agenda for fear of cracking the beautiful unity that the G7 powers wanted to display. The tension still rose a notch, Saturday June 12 on the sidelines of the summit. London is indeed considering bypassing the customs controls provided for in the Northern Irish protocol that accompanies the post-Brexit agreement. “We will not hesitate to invoke article 16”, threatened Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sky News, referring to a provision in the agreement that allows certain rules to be bypassed in the event of “Serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.

The Northern Irish Protocol is essential in the eyes of the European Union (EU), which sees it as a means of preserving the Good Friday agreement signed in 1998 after thirty years of civil war, but also of protecting the EU’s single market. entry of non-regulatory products. Customs controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain must in principle ensure that there is no physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, EU member state.

► How did the Europeans react?

“Both sides need to implement what we agreed to. The unity of the EU on this subject is total ”, tweeted Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the Presidents of the European Commission and Council. The exchanges were more lively between Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson, who would have quarreled about this affair of “Sausage war”, in reference to possible difficulties for Great Britain to ship chilled meat to Northern Ireland.

The echoes of the conversation are surreal. It is as if the sausages of Toulouse “Could no longer be sold on the Parisian markets”, Boris Johnson would have launched him. Improper comparison, would have retorted Emmanuel Macron, Toulouse and Paris being on “The same territory”. Big unease, on the British side, which continues to defend the territorial continuity of the United Kingdom. The French president also said ” ready “ to relaunch the Franco-British relationship, provided that “The British respect the word given to Europeans”, said the Elysee. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her part, posed as a justice of the peace, pleading in favor of a “Pragmatic solution”.

► What can be the consequences of such a blockage?

By not respecting the agreement, London is running the risk of being imposed tariffs targeted by the EU, at the end of an infringement procedure already initiated. Another possible consequence: the long-awaited trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States may not see the light of day. Joe Biden, proud of his Irish origins, has repeatedly reiterated his attachment to respect for protocol, which he believes guarantees peace. He makes it a prerequisite. Boris Johnson knows it, but he must take into account the wrath of the Northern Irish Unionists, who defend the retention within the United Kingdom. The possibility of customs controls already led to violent clashes at the beginning of April. They could resume with a vengeance in July, when the “Orange” unionists will organize their traditional marches.

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