Brexit STALEMATE: UK could play game of chicken to scare EU into vital breakthrough
Michel Barnier 'did his utmost to stop Brexit' says Farage
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The UK’s Brexit minister Lord Frost and EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic are due to resume talks following months of little to no direct contact, fuelling fears relations between the two sides are more strained than ever. Top of the agenda at their meeting was finding a way forward with the much-criticised Northern Ireland Protocol. Following Brexit, Northern Ireland effectively remains part of the European Union’s single market for goods, with trade checks being made on several goods crossing from Great Britain.
Lord Frost has repeatedly said he wants to overhaul large chunks of the Protocol to scrap any customs controls ordered by the EU, but Brussels has refused the possibility of the mechanism being renegotiated.
That has left both sides facing another brutal stalemate and fuelling fears of growing tensions but Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, has urged the UK to stand strong in the hope of forcing the hand of the EU.
He told Express.co.uk: “If the UK really prioritises a total regulatory autonomy over everything else in regards to the Northern Ireland Protocol, and if they are willing to pay any price to maintain that, then there is no reason for them to give in.
“It would make life easier to find a solution for the Protocol and make the process smoother in Northern Ireland.
“Both sides could be engaged in a game of chicken where they are trying to scare each other into making concessions.
“For the UK, if you don’t have the Protocol, it will cause serious trade issues for Northern Ireland.
“For the EU, if the Protocol isn’t working, they face a really difficult decision about whether or not start putting a border between the north and south of Ireland.”
While the political expert has urged the UK to remain strong against EU tactics, he admitted Brussels has the advantage in the Protocol dispute because of trade tactics the bloc could enforce that would potentially damage the UK economy.
But Mr Menon warned Britain may have a trick up its sleeve yet, although the political expert conceded it would be a “very tricky thing to do”.
The UK in a Changing Europe director added: “If you’re looking at the economics, the EU has the advantage as they can make access to the market even harder, which would have an even bigger impact on the UK economy.
“If the UK really wants to play chicken, it can tell the EU to put a border in Ireland and see how that works.
“It would be a very tricky thing to do and would put the EU directly in the firing line for putting that border into the middle of the island of Ireland.
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“Either that or the EU starts implementing checks between the Republic and the rest of its market, which would go down like a bucket of cold sick in Dublin.”
On Thursday, European Commission vice-president Mr Sefcovic held “constructive” talks with leaders in Northern Ireland over the implementation of the Protocol.
Earlier in the day, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had suggested his party would collapse the Executive within weeks if changes to the Protocol were not made.
The latest move coincided with the visit to Northern Ireland by Mr Sefcovic to gather further detail about the post-Brexit agreement.
Speaking to the PA news agency, the European Commission vice-president said: “I think everybody was very constructive and what I really appreciate was that all the representatives clearly underlined that we have to work together to find a solution to the issues that are on the table.
“I promised them that I’m ready to engage with all of them, bilaterally and collectively, because we really want to resolve all the issues linked to the protocol and to turn it into the opportunity which really we believe that it is.”
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