Another Brexit riot promises to produce fireworks in negotiations

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About a year and a half after the Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union, Northern Ireland’s status remains a thorn in the side of negotiators. Since the electoral victory of the nationalist party Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, both sides have threatened to blow up the case. And then the next round of negotiations has not started yet.

What is it again?

Northern Ireland’s status has been a point of contention since the start of Brexit negotiations. Indeed, Ireland has been part of the European Union since 1973, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. This seems easy to solve by dividing the area, but in 1998 it was agreed in the so-called Good Friday Agreement that there would never be a physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

And that’s where the shoe pinches right now. In the Brexit deal, it was agreed that Northern Ireland would be given special status. The country is not a member of the EU, but is part of the European Customs Union. Accordingly, it must comply with European food standards and other regulations. This creates a lot of extra administration for UK supermarkets wanting to supply their Northern Ireland branches, which has already regularly led to empty shelves in Northern Ireland stores.

Wasn’t that a topic of discussion before?

Yes, regularly. But now that the nationalists won the election in Northern Ireland last week, it is resurfacing. They plead for the reunification of Ireland and Northern Ireland, if necessary as members of the EU. The second largest party, on the other hand, wants Northern Ireland to remain British and refuses to enter government as long as the special status remains. This makes everything even more complicated.

In October, the EU proposed to abolish customs checks on, among other things, medicines and a number of foods, to halve the total number of checks and to reduce the number of checks on foodstuffs by 80%. food.

But British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is not happy with that. According to a statement it issued on Tuesday, the plans will still see “everyday products” disappear from the shelves and imports of certain meats will require “around 50 fields of administration”.

How are you now ?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this week that the Northern Ireland protocol was “untenable” under the current circumstances. Truss reiterated on Thursday that the country “will have no choice but to act if the EU is not flexible.” It could mean anything, but there is talk in the halls that the UK will announce next week that it will ignore parts of the protocol.

The European Commission took a lead on the matter on Thursday, saying the EU will never agree to such a move. “It undermines trust and jeopardizes the ultimate goal,” said European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic. Sefcovic has already shown he is not afraid to cancel the entire Brexit deal, leaving the UK empty-handed.

What does this mean for negotiations?

Over the next few weeks, negotiators on behalf of the EU and the UK will meet again for a new round of negotiations. It is already clear that these conversations will also be conducted on the cutting edge.

It remains to be seen who will be right in the end, but there is a good chance that it will not yet be the last round. Northern Ireland’s problem will continue to escalate for a long time. It remains to be seen whether a solution acceptable to both parties will ever be found.

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