British theatrics do no one any favors over protocol


If Brexit was the major disruptive factor that opened up a rift in relations between these islands, the Northern Ireland Protocol was designed to bridge it.

o It was no surprise to hear Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney say it was unfortunate that his UK counterpart, Liz Truss, seemed determined to burn it. The unilateral approach is “trustworthy,” he said.

“At a time when the people of Northern Ireland have voted in for their elected representatives and are looking to get the executive branch up and running again, the path chosen by the UK Government is very worrying,” he added.

London effectively put a stopwatch on for a couple of weeks. If it doesn’t get what it wants, it will legislate in violation of protocol, a mechanism that Britain has not only signed up to but has actually developed. Both Dublin and Brussels are deeply concerned about the move.

As Mr. Coveney put it, “I have made it clear that breaking international law is not the answer to solving protocol problems.” The only remedy for breaking the deadlock is to return to the table and close the edges smooth. Negotiations rarely go well when conducted in an atmosphere of threat.

The position at Downing Street seems to be: we’re willing to be super sensible and extremely accommodating provided you give us exactly what we want. And if not, we’ll take it anyway. Such behavior will harden rather than soften positions in Europe. Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic was quick to criticize Ms Truss’ plan and warned Brussels of retaliation.

If the UK goes ahead with the bill, the EU will respond with “all the measures at its disposal,” he said.

The prospect of a hurtful and unnecessary trade war with the bloc has increased. Boris Johnson has allowed the DUP to play the victim. The narrative is manipulated to present itself as the innocent betrayal of circumstances. It is always someone else’s bad behavior that is the cause of their distress. Yet it was they who supported Brexit and it was their government that introduced the protocol. To believe skillful complaints fosters the illusion that agreements can be broken at will and new ones made on demand.

A wake-up call is urgently needed. The “post-factual” age has not yet dawned, alternative facts have not yet replaced the real ones.

A negotiation strategy may allow for some degree of feint and retreat; but if it is overdone, it becomes spectacle. It is disingenuous that Mr Johnson and Ms Truss claim they are breaking protocol to protect the Good Friday Agreement. It was the Brexit bombshell that shook the pillars of this historic agreement; the record is a necessary support.

It has been argued that ignorance is not evil intent but persistence in ignorance. You don’t tear down a fence until you understand why it was put up. A litigation or trade war will serve neither the UK nor the EU. More reasoning and less theatrical boasting would be a constructive and welcome change. British theatrics do no one any favors over protocol

Fry Electronics Team

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