Some time after 12pm today, the two candidates vying to be Britain’s next prime minister will know the result – and barring a political earthquake, the winner is likely to be Liz Truss.
The rest of us will get the result sometime between 12.15pm and 12.30pm and the process of seeing Boris Johnson out and Liz Truss in will continue until tomorrow. Taoiseach Micheál Martin, his government colleagues and their advisers would have preferred Ms Truss’s rival – former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak – who had signaled he wanted to resume serious post-Brexit negotiations with Brussels.
This change of leadership in London is a major problem for both Northern and Southern Ireland as Britain and the EU are currently on a collision course. Officially, the Taoiseach has expressed the view that the election of a new British leader is an opportunity to reframe relations and resume real negotiations on Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit status.
Ms Truss’s junior minister, Conor Burns from Belfast, has raised the prospect of fresh talks on the issue, and the EU’s chief negotiator, Maros Sefcovic, has reiterated his goodwill for a new dialogue. As a further show of goodwill, the UK is being invited by the EU to attend a special security conference to be held in Prague on 6 October.
That being said, there are real fears in Dublin and Brussels that things could get a lot worse under Liz Truss’ leadership.
In summary, there are fears she is taking a leaf out of Boris Johnson’s playbook and continuing to fight “the EU bad guys” to distract from the vast basket of internal problems she now faces.
Ms Truss is the person who, as Foreign Secretary in the London Parliament, pushed legislation to allow the repeal of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed in 2019 and now has international law status.
She also owes much of her success in this leadership contest to right-wing Europhobes in the party, and there are fears that at least some of them will be given key posts in her new cabinet, to be announced later.
In addition, Ms Truss is widely expected to take urgent action to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol on an “emergency brake” provision, known as Article 16, which allows either the EU or the UK to suspend provisions due to extreme environmental, social or expose it to economic consequences. This measure is independent of the decommissioning legislation currently being passed through the UK Parliament.
The emergency brake move would oblige both sides to engage in dialogue, but it would open the prospect of EU retaliation on top of such action already threatened by Brussels – it would further strain the already strained relationship towards a slow slide towards a trade war that could endanger the island of Ireland would be catastrophic.
Brussels officials have already called the law “a loaded gun on the negotiating table” before the UK Parliament. Those officials say it must be removed by suspending legislation and allowing real negotiations on a compromise solution that can be implemented.
Speculation about this Article 16 move is focused on early next week as September 15 is the deadline for the UK to respond to a legal complaint from the EU. This followed the UK unilaterally extending “grace periods” to carry out controls on British goods heading north. Initially, the EU withheld these and other legal steps, a total of seven. Brussels launched these cases following Ms Truss’ legislative push in the London Parliament in June.
Formally, Ms Truss stated that she wanted a negotiated solution to the problems related to the implementation of the Protocol. But neither their rhetoric nor their actions practically support this view.
The Taoiseach will attempt to phone Ms. Truss as early as possible, ostensibly to congratulate her. There is talk of meeting soon, maybe in Dublin. That might help.
The dismay in Dublin is offset by more positive sentiment in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Belfast. Officially, DUP boss Jeffrey Donaldson held back. But some of his lieutenants were staunchly pro-Truss, believing that she was a champion of British unity. But Mr Donaldson will be under pressure to revive power-sharing.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/with-the-eu-and-uk-on-a-brexit-collision-course-a-liz-truss-victory-spells-more-pain-over-protocol-41960838.html With the EU and UK on a Brexit collision course, a Liz Truss victory means more pain over protocol