Post-Brexit trade rules face challenges

  Dispute between UK and EU over Northern Ireland Protocol

  □ Our reporter Wu Qiong

  Recently, the United Kingdom and the European Union have renewed disputes over the "Northern Ireland Protocol" in the "Brexit" agreement.

On May 17, local time, British Foreign Secretary Truss delivered a speech in the British Parliament, saying that the British government will introduce a legislative process in the next few weeks to revise parts of the "Northern Ireland Protocol".

The European Union has warned that Britain's unilateral action could violate international law, and the bloc may respond with legal action that could escalate into a trade war.

  Britain may introduce legislative measures

  Since the United Kingdom officially left the European Union, disputes related to "Brexit" have plagued the British government and the European Union.

The confrontation between the two sides over the "Northern Ireland Protocol" this time is just one of the many sequelae of "Brexit".

However, as it is related to the post-Brexit trade rules and the internal peace and security of the UK, both the UK and EU are reluctant to make substantial concessions.

  As we all know, the "Northern Ireland Protocol" is a part of the "Brexit" agreement. The core content of the protocol is that after the United Kingdom "Brexit", the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland remain in the European single market and the EU customs union, and there is no relationship between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Set "hard boundaries".

However, as a result, some goods from the British Isle of Great Britain entering Northern Ireland are subject to customs and border security checks.

In addition to the flow of goods, the two sides also have serious differences over the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland.

To this end, there have long been calls in the UK to revise the protocol.

  The EU has responded to this.

On October 13, 2021, the EU issued a proposal to amend the "Northern Ireland Protocol", promising that if the UK agrees, it will promote the flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by reducing customs procedures, simplifying certification and reducing border inspections.

  However, the UK argues that the changes do not address key issues.

On May 11, Truss issued a statement formally rejecting the EU's proposed changes.

On the same day, the British government also called for renegotiation on the protocol, otherwise "unilateral action may be taken" to overturn part of the agreement.

  On the 17th, the United Kingdom took further action, stating that it will introduce a legislative process in the next few weeks to revise parts of the protocol.

  The differences between the UK and EU are difficult to bridge

  The British side's statement made the dispute between the UK and the EU over the "Northern Ireland Protocol" gradually become "gunpowder", and the two sides are currently refusing to give in to each other.

  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said bluntly when he visited Northern Ireland recently that the "Northern Ireland Protocol" is outdated and cannot reflect the reality after the epidemic, such as the sharp rise in the cost of living.

He also said he was open to negotiating the agreement with the EU, but that the UK would "take the necessary action" if the EU did not change its position.

  Truss told the EU that introducing a legislative process to amend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol is in line with international law.

She also explained the details of the relevant legislation, saying that a series of necessary measures will be implemented in the future to make trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland smoother.

However, she also sent a signal to the EU that it intends to negotiate, saying that the UK will continue to be open to future negotiations.

  British Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and Justice Dominic Raab believes that for the United Kingdom, amending the "Northern Ireland Protocol" is an urgent task, because "Protocol issues are endangering the stability of Northern Ireland".

In addition to Raab, the Democratic Unionist Party, one of the main parties in the Northern Ireland local council, is also concerned that the existence of the "Northern Ireland Protocol" "is conducive to the forces within Northern Ireland to break away from the United Kingdom".

The party also believes that imposing additional checks on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland effectively weakens Northern Ireland's position in the UK.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Geoffrey Donaldson said he would continue to press Johnson's government to revise the Northern Ireland Protocol.

  In the face of the UK's clear attitude, the EU refused to make substantial concessions, saying that if the UK unilaterally tore up or revise the protocol, it would violate international law and undermine the mutual trust between the EU and the UK, and expressed serious concerns about this.

The EU also called on the UK to adopt a "constructive attitude" to cooperate with the EU.

  European Commission Vice-President Marosh Sevchovic warned that any unilateral UK suspension of the protocol would be unacceptable.

  He also emphasized that the "Northern Ireland Protocol" is the cornerstone of the "Brexit" agreement and is a binding international agreement, so no one should unilaterally cancel, break or in any way change the arrangements that have been reached.

  In addition to the EU, many European countries have also responded strongly, with Ireland bearing the brunt.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney accused the European Union of not lacking flexibility in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol. The European Union has always shown a willingness to compromise, but the British side is unwilling to accept its plan, and is determined to pursue policies that may violate international law. direction forward.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croix also hoped that the British side would not undermine the consensus reached by the EU and the UK.

  Affecting regional trade politics

  It is reported that in the latest call between Truss and Sevchovic, the UK and EU have not yet reached an agreement on the revision of the "Northern Ireland Protocol".

The development of the situation has aroused the concern and even concern of international public opinion.

  The Associated Press is not optimistic about whether the UK and the EU can bridge their differences in the future.

The media recently focused on Sevchovic's remarks, who pointed out in an interview that the EU will respond with legal action to any unilateral UK rewriting of the rules, which could escalate into a trade war.

  Some analysts hold a similar view.

They worry that if the UK takes unilateral action to overturn the content of the "Brexit" agreement on Northern Ireland's trade, and the EU takes retaliatory measures, it may provoke trade frictions, not only Northern Ireland, but the entire UK and even the EU's trade may be got damage.

With the economies of both the UK and EU already very fragile, a full-blown trade war will undoubtedly hit both sides hard.

Even Brexit Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg described the possibility as an "act of self-harm".

  However, some people with positive views believe that the legislative process for the UK to revise the protocol may take several months, and the UK government has not completely abandoned negotiations with the EU, so there is still hope for the dispute between the UK and the EU to ease.

  In fact, there is currently no consensus within the UK on how to deal with disputes with the EU. For example, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak and Minister of Local Development, Housing and Communities Gove recently stated that they would not unilaterally tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol. Plans are deeply disturbing.

Some government officials believe that the UK and EU should seek practical solutions within the framework of the "Northern Ireland Protocol".

This also brings a little bit of uncertainty to future developments.

  Nearly six years after the highly anticipated "Brexit" referendum, the tug-of-war between the UK and the EU over post-Brexit trade arrangements is still not over.

How the dispute between the two sides over the "Northern Ireland Protocol" will be resolved will not only affect the trade in Northern Ireland, the UK and even the EU, but also the political situation in the region. Its future development will surely attract the continued attention of the international community.