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Remember when Whitehall "officials" were waxing lyrical about European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, as opposed to his predecessor, "robotic" Barnier?

EU says UK risks breaking law with solo bid to ease Northern Irish checks - Politico.eu

Brussels accused Britain of risking a breach of international law after the U.K. unveiled plans to unilaterally extend grace periods on post-Brexit customs checks at Northern Ireland's ports for at least six months.

The U.K.'s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said measures due to come into force on April 1 under the terms of Britain's post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU must be postponed until October 1.

But European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič condemned the move Wednesday night, branding it "a clear departure from the constructive approach" to ongoing talks on Northern Ireland trade that would undermine trust. Ireland called it "deeply unhelpful."

The Commission said in a statement that it marked the "second time" the U.K. government had been "set to breach international law" after a heated row over the border erupted in 2020.

"Following the UK government's statement today, Vice-President Šefčovič has expressed the EU's strong concerns over the UK's unilateral action, as this amounts to a violation of the relevant substantive provisions of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement," the statement said.

by Bernard (bernard) on Thu Mar 4th, 2021 at 06:54:07 PM EST
A Chara, - On first glance, the UK ambassador Paul Johnson's justification for the UK breaking the N. Ireland protocol seems reasonable. (British ambassador on the NI protocol, Letters, 5th. March.) It is, allegedly, trying to provide practical solutions to problems being experienced "in the everyday life of communities" and ensure cross-community support.

But the bottom line is that it is a justification for the UK once again breaking the solemn legal undertakings it entered into when it signed the Withdrawal and Trade and Cooperation agreements.

The fact that he invokes the EU's mistaken threat to invoke Article 16 in part justification merely adds insult to injury. The EU acknowledged its mistake and withdrew its threat within hours, whereas the UK is threatening to break the N. Ireland protocol deliberately and indefinitely, as it did with its Internal Market Bill last year prior to the signing of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

And let us be clear: The problems being experienced in the everyday life of communities are a direct result of the hard Brexit chosen by the Johnson administration with unionist support, to which no perfect solution is possible, and which are also being experienced by people south of the border when trying to procure items from Britain.

Trying to push the blame for these inconveniences onto European Commission "inflexibility" is a classic distraction tactic: They are an integral part of the form of Brexit negotiated and agreed by the UK government on behalf of N. Ireland.

And the Protocol itself, in Article 18, requires that the continued operation of the protocol be subject to the approval on a regular basis by a simple majority of the N. Ireland Assembly.

Although desirable, there is no absolute requirement for "cross-community" support in the protocol, and to raise it as a justification now is simply the resuscitation of the unionist veto when none is provided for either in the Protocol or the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

Indeed, unionist politicians are currently trying to incite loyalist opposition to the protocol to cover up their complicity in promoting a hard Brexit in defiance of the wishes of the 56% majority in N. Ireland who voted Remain.

Seeking to redirect loyalist anger from the unionist politicians who misled them and onto the EU is a classic demagogic tactic and one we should not be complicit in.

As noted by Stephen Collins, (Johnson's unilateral breaking of NI protocol could go horribly wrong, Opinion, 5th. March) the European Parliament is due to ratify the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and accompanying protocol at the end of this month. It should not do so while the UK government is , once again, threatening to unilaterally breach its solemn Treaty obligations to the EU in defiance of international law.

And perhaps Paul Johnson should have a chat with his US ambassadorial counterpart. It is doubtful that the Biden administration will be too pleased to see the UK once agin proposing to breach international law.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 5th, 2021 at 01:16:10 PM EST
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