Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London, said Brexit was “far from done” as he warned the “already strained UK-EU relations” could only get worse due to disagreements over the hated deal. He issued the warning to Tory leadership contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak continue to battle it out for their place in Number 10.
Professor Menon told them the “most pressing issue” facing them when they get in to power is the Northern Ireland Protocol as the UK continues to threaten to scrap parts of the deal.
Writing for UK in a changing Europe’s report ‘The Conservative leadership contest: a guide to the policy landscape’, he said: “ The EU has made it clear that it would view passage of the Bill as a breach of the terms of the Protocol.
“Should it become law, therefore, the new government would face the prospect of immediate retaliation, most probably via a further court action in addition to the two already underway.
“This could prompt a trade war and would worsen already strained UK-EU relations, which are hampering cooperation in areas of mutual benefit such as the Horizon research programme.”
He accused Mr Sunak and Ms Truss of producing “very little detail” despite signalling the need to “seize Brexit opportunities”.
Professor Menon said: “There has to date been a strong symbolic element to the debate about Brexit opportunities, evidenced by virtually all the leadership candidates speaking of their determination to seize them, while producing very little in the way of detail.
“Specific measures taken so far have been largely symbolic, such as the Government’s review into permitting greater use of imperial measures.”
He also warned the politicians “trade with the rest of the world is economically less significant” than trade with the Brussels bloc.
Professor Menon added: “The quest for Brexit opportunities is also related to trade policy. Divergence from EU rules might impact upon the UK’s ability to trade with the EU.
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“Should a new Government decide to amend EU data protection rules, any putative domestic benefits would need to be weighed against the possibility that divergence might entail a removal of the ‘adequacy decision’ that allows for the free flow of data between the UK and the EU.
“There is the added complication that divergence in areas covered by the Protocol might lead to a hardening of the border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as goods legally produced in the former might be outlawed in the latter. Trade with the rest of the world is economically less significant than trade with the EU.
Ms Truss voted Remain but has since embraced Brexit and scooped up the backing of staunch Brexiteers in the party. She was instrumental in helping to push through the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which critics say breaks international law.
During her leadership campaign, she has vowed to review all EU laws retained after Brexit by the end of next year in a “red tape bonfire” if she becomes prime minister, and to scrap or replace those that are deemed to hinder UK growth.
While Brexiteer Mr Sunak has acknowledged the challenges posed by plans to scrap parts of the hated Brexit deal, but says his preference is a negotiated settlement with the bloc.
The former chancellor voted against the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol Bill at its second reading in the Commons.