French President Emmanuel Macron has promised a “resumption” of relations with the UK if the country complies with the ‘Brexit’ agreements and especially the protocol on Northern Ireland. Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a bilateral meeting, at the G7, in which they discussed about the relations between both countries and with the European Union, deteriorated by the unilateral decisions that the UK adopted in imposing customs controls in Northern Ireland. During the talks, the French President said he was willing to “reset” the relationship with the British.
However, Johnson reminded that this new beginning will be dependent on “the British respecting the word given to the Europeans and the framework set by the Brexit agreements”. Paris and London share, according to Macron, a common vision of major global issues and also of transatlantic policy, in particular on the need for arms control.
Statements have taken a turn for the worse. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the EU not to be “stubborn” in the implementation of customs controls between Britain and Northern Ireland, and assured the BBC that his government “will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened”. The British government wants to unilaterally extend the exemption from controls on processed meat products, which expires on June 30, something the EU refuses to do under threat of sanctions that could lead to a trade war. Boris Johnson has meanwhile said that he “will not hesitate” to suspend the Brexit deal if the European Union (EU) does not show flexibility and agree to apply it in a “sensible” way.
“If the protocol continues to be applied in this way, we will not hesitate to invoke Article 16, as I said earlier,” Johnson said in an interview with the Sky News station, arguing that European countries “need to get it into their heads” that the UK is indivisible. Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to the UK’s Exit Agreement allows for its suspension if its implementation “gives rise to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties.”
EU and UK are in open conflict because the latter has taken unilateral measures to mitigate the impact of the introduction of customs controls on the movement of some goods, such as fresh food products, which led the European Commission to raise infringement proceedings in March. Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland has in practice remained in the single market, with customs controls introduced on goods arriving from Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland) to avoid a physical border with neighboring Ireland.
An open border is one of the conditions of the 1998 peace accords that ended decades of sectarian violence between Catholics, Republicans favoring reunification of the entire island, and Protestants, ‘unionists’ who want the territory to remain under the British crown. It was this issue that delayed an understanding in the United Kingdom’s EU exit process, triggered in 2017 but not completed until 2020 thanks to this Protocol, which critics see as creating a border in Northern Ireland.
“I think the agreement we signed is perfectly reasonable, but I don’t think the EU’s application or interpretation of the protocol is sensible or pragmatic,” the British leader said to Sky News.
Willing: prêt, disposé, bien vouloir
Comply: obtempérer, respecter
Take a turn for the worse: se dégrader, empirer
Urge: inciter, conseiller, vivement à
Stubborn: têtu, obstiné, tenace
Threatened: menacé, en danger