When we thought Brexit had already given its all, the new season returns more powerful than ever
In his time as a journalist, Boris Johnson‘s chronicles, without being invented, offered only small elements of certainties. ‘The Times’ even fired him for making up a date. “Aren’t you going to let the truth spoil a good story for you?” William Randolph Hearst, the father of tabloid journalism, used to say.
The problem is that, once he moved to Downing Street, the ‘terrible infant’ of British politics follows the same strategy. And now he defends that he is forced to “violate” the Withdrawal Agreement that he signed less than a year ago with Brussels because, according to his version, the EU wants to “break the United Kingdom“, threatening to “block goods” that enter Northern Ireland through Great Britain. Not even his own ranks are comfortable with the order. In short, when we thought that Brexit had already given its all, the new season returns more powerful than ever. Here we try to resolve some of the most pressing questions about the next chapters.
Why do we keep talking about Brexit when the UK is no longer part of the EU?
The UK and the EU signed a Withdrawal Agreement last year that allowed the British to officially leave the bloc on January 31 in an orderly manner. As there was precisely a divorce pact, a transition period was established until December 31, 2020, in which, in practice, everything remains the same. In other words, the UK remains a member of the single market and the customs union even though it no longer has a say in decision-making.
What is being negotiated then now?
During this transition period, London and Brussels negotiate what their future relations will be like as of January 1, 2021. Important issues such as security cooperation are at stake, although all the protagonism is being taken by the economic issue. If both parties fail to close a trade pact, their relations will govern only under the guidelines of the World Trade Organization. This involves fees and tariffs. In short, a hard economic Brexit.
What international treaty is Boris now willing to violate?
In the absence of progress in the negotiations to close a trade pact, Boris Johnson is now ready to violate the Withdrawal Agreement he signed last year with the EU. The ‘premier’ has presented a draft of the Internal Market Law. In theory, the regulation wants to guarantee an unimpeded market between the nations that make up the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales). But in practice, it contains clauses that come to blow up the international treaty, specifically, the Irish Protocol, which was always the main stumbling block in divorce negotiations. The border that now arises between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is the only physical border that will exist between the UK and the EU.
What is the truth about the Irish Protocol?
According to the protocol, once the transition period is over, Northern Ireland will be part of the UK customs union, but at the same time, it will also continue to be linked to EU regulations on goods. In the event that London and Brussels do not now reach a trade agreement, that could mean that tariffs will be applied to goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain (Scotland, England, Wales) if they are deemed to be ‘at risk’ of entering then to the Republic of Ireland (EU member state).
The tariffs would be reimbursable to importers when it could be proven that the goods have not crossed the border into the Republic. However, the controls would be carried out in the first instance, creating barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
It was agreed to create a joint committee (made up of the British and Community team) to look at the range of goods being transported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. And it was clearly specified that, in the event of a subsequent failure to reach a trade agreement, all goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain would be considered ‘at risk’ of entering the EU (via the Republic of Ireland) and, therefore, they would be subject to tariffs.
Johnson now says this “would impose a large-scale trade border in the Irish Sea.” And it is true. But it is exactly what he himself signed last year with Brussels. The problem is that the ‘premier’ no longer feels comfortable with what has been agreed and now wants to change things through the Internal Market project, with which, if there is no trade agreement with the EU, the key clauses of the Protocol would be annulled of Ireland so that it was the British Government who ultimately decides the assets that are “at-risk” of ending up in the bloc.
Are the ‘Tories’ ranks going to rebel against the prime minister?
The Government won the first vote on Monday night without problems (340 votes compared to 263) for the bill to pass to the next phase of processing, although there were about twenty rebel tories facing the Executive, including former Premier Theresa May, who was Treasury Minister Sajid Javid and former State Attorney General, The Eurosceptic Geoffrey Cox.
The major revolt is expected, however, next week, when the vote on the amendment presented by Sir Bob Neill, head of the Justice Committee, is scheduled, which raises a “Westminster padlock” for Parliament to vote in the last resort on the controversial items that would violate the Withdrawal Agreement. While it is true that Johnson enjoys an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons, his order is creating huge cracks in his party and the government itself. Likewise, the Lords are ready to change the regulations as much as they can. The EU has given the ‘premier’ until the end of the month to withdraw the problematic clauses. Otherwise, they could initiate legal action against London.