Brexit: NI protocol issue could negatively affect Irish economy
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A poll released last week shows that a majority of people in the UK want to rejoin the EU amid ongoing disputes over fishing and Northern Ireland. A four-point surge in support for reversing the referendum result means 53 percent back membership in a survey by Savanta ComRes, with 47 percent wanting to stay out of the EU. One in ten Leave voters want to rejoin the bloc, as do one in five Conservative supporters, the poll found – while 40 percent of adults back a fresh referendum within the next five years. Savanta ComRes pointed to “momentum shifting towards a majority who would now vote to rejoin the EU”, despite no political party advocating the policy.
The pollster added: “Issues such as disrupted supply chains and spats with fellow European leaders over fishing and vaccines may have cut through, although the results are still on a knife-edge.”
It comes as the UK and EU continue to clash over Northern Ireland.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Brexit minister, Lord David Frost, argue that the Northern Ireland Protocol doesn’t work.
The Protocol keeps Northern Ireland in the EU single market, avoiding a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
However, it has had the consequence of essentially putting a border down the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost warned recently that, without substantial changes to the agreement, the UK could seek to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol, which would mean unilaterally suspending parts of the deal.
This may not leave Brussels best pleased, however, and an expert warned in June that the EU could disrupt UK trade.
In the event of a trade war, the EU can shut off the flow of vital security and business data and “slow down” exports through Calais.
Jonathan Portes, of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, added that the EU has multiple weapons it can deploy that would have “significant economic consequences” for the UK, if the row over Northern Ireland were to escalate.
This includes a threat to withdraw data adequacy – which allows data to move between the UK and Europe freely.
He explained: “The EU could legally withdraw that at any time – that would have pretty serious implications.
“There are other non-tariff barriers the EU could use to disrupt trade. It’s not hard to slow things down at Calais simply by imposing extra bureaucratic procedures.”
The EU officially recognised the UK’s data adequacy in June this year.
For now, UK-EU tensions may be on course to calm after the EU said they had seen a “change in tone” from the UK regarding Northern Ireland.
European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said last Friday: “I acknowledge and welcome the change in tone of discussion with David Frost today, and I hope this will lead to tangible results for the people in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “We can and must arrive at the agreed solution that Northern Ireland truly deserves. That is also why I raised forcefully that we need to make serious headway in the course of next week.
“This is particularly important as regards [to] the issue of medicines. An uninterrupted long-term supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is the protocol-related issue on everyone’s mind in Northern Ireland.”
This will have been welcomed in the Republic of Ireland, where one MEP was left furious with Lord Frost and Prime Minister Johnson.
Billy Kelleher, of the Fianna Fail party, claimed to Express.co.uk earlier this year that Lord Frost is acting in bad faith.
He said: “It’s hard to understand Lord Frost, because his signature is at the bottom of that agreement, he signed that agreement. Either he didn’t understand what he was signing in the first place or he is now acting in bad faith.
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“Either way, it is problematic from his perspective that the agreement he advocated for is now an agreement he no longer supports.
“I think there’s a lot of politics at work here, particularly from the UK, and it is infuriating and annoying because it is undermining the unique position Northern Ireland has in the world.”
He also added that the narrative of Britain securing newfound freedom “grates” on the people of Ireland.
Mr Kelleher continued: “Unfortunately I think the UK Government has been a bit like Donald Trump, not very worried about what people think about the way it conducts itself.
“I think the triumphalism around the vaccine in the early stages of the rollout – there was this obsession in the UK, hoping the EU would fail with the vaccine.
“Consistent mutterings from senior Tory figures about how they hope the EU would fail, and that seems to be the continual narrative.
“And that narrative grates on the Irish people, because the Irish people are very pro-European and want to see Europe succeed – equally we want to see the UK succeed.”
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