Billboard with the inscription

Despite disagreements with Brussels over Northern Ireland, London still views the European Union as one of its most important partners.: As the interlocutors of Izvestia told in the political and diplomatic circles of Great Britain, the kingdom and the EU have a similar approach to international relations, and therefore their foreign policy courses will overlap. Now, according to sources, Mr.London’s main task is to conclude as many bilateral trade agreements as possible. However, with the closest ally – the United States – this has not yet been done.… The reason is all in the same Northern Ireland issue.

Yield can’t be revisited

The dispute continues between the UK and the European Union around Northern Ireland Protocol (SI). Since the summer of 2021, London has stubbornly insisted that the protocol does not work and needs to be revised.

«Part of the population in Northern Ireland has completely lost confidence in him. He’s not doing what he was supposed to do, which is to defend the Belfast Accord.… In fact, exactly the opposite is happening. It needs to be changed, “said David Frost, a spokesman for the British Prime Minister for Brexit and International Affairs, on 12 October, stressing: many Britons see Brussels’ refusal to make concessions an attempt to use Northern Ireland to “reconsider the results of the referendum” on withdrawal.

London is proposing several changes – in particular, to abolish customs checks in the Irish Sea for British goods that are brought into Ulster. Brussels is against such a stepbecause, in his opinion, this will lead to an uncontrolled flow of goods from Britain to the EU. Also, the kingdom is advocating for the creation of an arbitration body that will resolve disputes over the observance of the rules of the single market – the last word should be with him, and not with the European Court.

Billboard with the inscription “No border on the Irish Sea” in the port of Larne, Northern Ireland

Фото: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Brussels, which had previously categorically refused to change the agreements, this time came up with a more conciliatory position and put forward its own suggestions: 1. Reduce customs checks by 80%. To prevent products from Britain from penetrating further into the EU, London must fulfill a number of conditions – in particular, make marks on its products that they are only for sale in the kingdom; 2. Halve the volume of paperwork; 3. Cooperate more actively with Northern Ireland; 4. Ensure a safe supply of medicines from the UK to Ulster.

As posted on October 13 in Twitter Deputy Head of the European Commission Maros Shefchovich, with these proposals the parties can “go to the finish line in solving the problem” with the document.

– The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of an international treaty that both sides have ratified. Therefore, Brussels refuses to revise it. But he made big concessions, ”Lyudmila Babynina, head of the Center for Political Integration of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained to Izvestia. – British politicians say frankly that the protocol was signed in a hurry and they understood that it was not in the interests of Britain and would not work. Nevertheless, London was so eager to leave the EU that it signed it..

According to the expert, the kingdom is now demanding not concessions, but revision. For him, this is a matter of principle and, most likely, the British leadership will not satisfy the EU’s proposals, summed up Lyudmila Babynina.

Terminal with containers at the port of Dublin

Terminal with containers at the port of Dublin

Фото: Global Look Press via ZUMA Press/Artur Widak

Help “Izvestia”

The Northern Ireland protocol, adopted in December 2020, was supposed to resolve the issue of the border between the SI (part of the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland (an independent country, a member of the EU). According to the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which resolved a 30-year conflict in the region, it should be open. In order not to violate this condition, London and Brussels decided to create two borders for the SI – one separated it from Britain by the Irish Sea, the other went along its contact with the Republic of Ireland. London did not impose tariffs on European goods that go exclusively to Northern Ireland, and thus Ulster remained part of EU trade.

At the same time, customs checks were introduced at the border with the main part of Britain. This slowed down supplies to SI and led to a shortage of products there. The presence of two borders and supply disruptions sparked speculation that Northern Ireland might secede from the kingdom. In Ulster, where traditionally strong contradictions between unionists (those who advocate unity with the United Kingdom) and Republicans (those who seek unification with the Republic of Ireland), protests began in April on an unprecedented scale.

Fish war

Along with the British requirements, the EU countries also declare their claims. They relate to the fishing regime in British waters, which has become another problematic agreement on Brexit… The parties agreed that European vessels will be able to fish in the waters of Jersey (an island in the English Channel, which belongs to the British crown) for the next five and a half years. To do this, they need to obtain a special license, proving that they have been fishing in British waters even before Brexit.

but The EU is not happy with the number of permits issued by London. For example, only 12 French ships out of 47 announced recently received a license.… As a result, 13 EU countries led by France (Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden) prepared a joint declaration in which they accused London of causing them “significant economic damage “.


Photo: REUTERS / Charles Platiau

The “fish war” between London and Paris has been going on since this spring. Then France threatened that if the situation does not change, it will cut off the island of Jersey from the supply of electricity there, which is 95% of the island’s electricity. In parallel with this, French fishermen began to blockade the port and the capital of the island of St. Helier. It got to the point that London sent there two escort ships with combat cannons on board; the headquarters of the French Navy, in turn, also deployed its observation ships in the English Channel. As a result, not having achieved their goal, the fishermen lifted the blockade, and clashes were avoided.

Trade is a priority

At the same time, despite the tense relations between London and Brussels, the European Union is still on the list of British foreign policy priorities..

“The EU is still an important partner of the United Kingdom in many areas, in fact, just like its individual member states,” said a source to Izvestia in Westminster. – After Brexit, Britain is no longer confined to the EU’s common foreign and security policy. However, the kingdom will often act in unison with her. – due to a similar approach to human rights, humanitarian issues, international law and the topic of the territorial integrity of independent states.

At the same time, the interlocutor emphasized, from now on, the UK places emphasis in a slightly different way: for example, now it wants to strengthen trade ties with the countries of the British Commonwealth, in particular with Australia and New Zealand.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a joint videoconference

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a joint videoconference, September 2021

Photo: TASS / EPA / Oliver Contreras

Britain, of course, does not want to lose influence over Europe. United Kingdom, while staying in NATO, builds bilateral relations with EU members: This includes active military-technical cooperation with Poland, and attempts to act in Ukraine, and work with Finland and Sweden, – Elena Ananyeva, head of the Center for British Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained to Izvestia. – And the recent alliance AUKUS (a partnership in the Pacific with the participation of Australia, Britain and the United States, created in September 2021. – Izvestia) suggests that London is trying to act on a global scale.

As a source in the kingdom’s diplomatic circles told Izvestia, trade deals with the maximum number of countries are a key priority of his current foreign policy course. Agreements with 62 statesof which the most significant are Canada and Japan.

Wherein there is no trade deal with the closest ally, the United States. Washington does not agree to it, even though London makes big concessions to it on other international issues. – and to the detriment of their interests.

“Britain would like to develop relations with China – even under David Cameron (the country’s prime minister from 2010 to 2016 – Izvestia), the“ golden era ”of bilateral relations was proclaimed,” says Elena Ananyeva. – However, the United States forced London to abandon the construction of a nuclear power plant with the participation of Beijing and to end cooperation with Huawei on the creation of a 5G network. It turns out that Britain is making concessions, while the United States does not conclude a trade agreement with it.


Photo: TASS / Zuma

The problem is not only that the US was against Brexit, but also in the already mentioned protocol on Northern Ireland: The influence of Irish Americans is very strong in Congress (including President Joe Biden), this lobby warned that if peace in the SI is violated, then there will be no trade agreement, the expert emphasized.

As for relations with Russia, according to the interlocutor of Izvestia in Westminster, it is not worth waiting for positive changes in the near future – there are too many obstacles for this. But there are several areas at the human level in which Moscow and London can maintain warm and healthy relations – culture, sports, tourism, the source concluded.

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