Blog: Boris Johnson prefers to ‘fight Europe’ than fix Brexit border woes, says ex-EU ambassador – POLITICO Europe

DUBLIN – Europe may need to slap punitive tariffs and quotas on British exports to challenge a U.K. prime minister who prefers the optics of battling Brussels than the logic of compromise, a former top EU diplomat said.

Former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, who was the EU’s ambassador to Washington from 2004 to 2009, says the British are behaving provocatively by shrugging off a rare formal reprimand from the U.S. and rejecting a temporary veterinary deal with Europe.

Such a deal, the EU asserts, would eliminate the bloc’s legal requirement for checks on four-fifths of goods shipped from Britain to Northern Ireland, the focal point for post-Brexit tensions.

“I’m amazed the British have not agreed to do that,” Bruton told RTÉ radio in Dublin on Thursday. 

Such a deal, he said, would defuse the fight over deepening checks on goods arriving in Northern Irish ports. While Britain says it can’t strike even a temporary deal because this would restrict its ability to pursue trade deals elsewhere, Bruton rejected this as nonsensical given the timescales involved.

“There probably won’t be any substantial trade agreements for four or five years anyway, so this option would have been almost cost-free, a temporary agreement. But they declined that,” he said.

“This makes me suspect that this is a political calculation, that being seen to fight with Europe is good politics in England and rallies support for the Conservative Party,” Bruton said.

“They’re basically being – I would describe it as reckless.”

Bruton said the EU couldn’t afford to let the U.K. keep breaking the Withdrawal Agreement and its Northern Irish trade protocol. It already has delayed the introduction of checks on supermarket goods staying in Northern Ireland and on consumer parcels, and has reversed a ban on products containing British soil.

If Britain were to ignore more mutually agreed deadlines, such as the looming July 1 requirement to stop shipping chilled meats to Northern Ireland, Bruton said the EU “may be forced to contemplate imposing tariffs or quotas on British exports.”

“The EU has experience in designing such trade measures and will target them to have the best persuasive effect on the U.K.,” he said. “But it would be unavoidable that all EU members, particularly the one that trades most with the United Kingdom – Ireland – will suffer considerably as a result.”

Bruton discounted the value of legal action in resolving the current impasse. “A court case would drag on so long,” he said. “Going to the WTO [World Trade Organization] would drag on even longer.”

He held out hope that Boris Johnson might rethink his opposition to a veterinary deal on common food standards when he meets European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel at G7 events this weekend.

If not, he said, Britain would increasingly be seen as “a country whose word cannot be trusted” and which “agrees to treaties to get something and then, when it has got it, decides to ignore the treaty.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s