Saturday December 4th, 2021 11:31PM

Divorced UK and EU head for new Brexit fight over N Ireland

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BRUSSELS (AP) — It was late last Christmas Eve when the European Union and Britain finally clinched a Brexit trade deal after years of wrangling, threats and missed deadlines to seal their divorce.

There was hope that now-separated Britain and the 27-nation bloc would sail their relationship toward calmer waters.

With Christmas closing in again one thing is clear — it wasn't to be.

Britain's Brexit minister on Tuesday accused the EU of wishing failure on its former member and of badmouthing the U.K. as a country that can't be trusted. David Frost said during a speech in Lisbon that the EU “doesn’t always look like it wants us to succeed" or “get back to constructive working together.”

He said a fundamental rewrite of the mutually agreed divorce deal was the only way to fix the exes' “fractious relationship.” And he warned that Britain could push an emergency override button on the deal if it didn't get its way.

“We constantly face generalized accusations that we can’t be trusted and that we aren’t a reasonable international actor,” Frost added — a response to EU claims that the U.K. is seeking to renege on the legally binding treaty that it negotiated and signed.

Post-Brexit tensions have crystalized into a worsening fight over Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. to share a land border with an EU country, which is Ireland. Under the most delicate and contentious part of the Brexit deal, Northern Ireland remains inside the EU's single market for trade in goods, in order to avoid a hard border with EU member Ireland.

That means customs and border checks must be conducted on some goods going to Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K., despite the fact they are part of the same country. The regulations are intended to prevent goods from Britain entering the EU’s tariff-free single market while keeping an open border on the island of Ireland — a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process.

The U.K. government soon complained the arrangements weren't working, saying the rules impose burdensome red tape on businesses. Never short of a belligerent metaphor, 2021 has already brought a “sausage war,” with Britain asking the EU to drop a ban on processed British meat products such as sausages entering Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's British Unionist community, meanwhile, says the Brexit deal undermines the 1998 Good Friday peace accord — which sought to protect the rights of both Unionist and Irish Nationalist communities — by weakening Northern Ireland’s ties with the rest of the U.K.

The bloc has agreed to look at changes to the Protocol, and is due to present proposals on Wednesday. Before that move, Britain raised the stakes again, with Frost demanding sweeping changes to the way the agreement is governed.

In his speech in the Portuguese capital, Frost said the Protocol “is not working.”

“It has completely lost consent in one community in Northern Ireland,” he said. “It is not doing the thing it was set up to do – protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. In fact it is doing the opposite. It has to change.”

Most contentiously, he said the EU must also remove the European Court of Justice as the ultimate arbiter of disputes concerning trade in Northern Ireland and instead agree to international arbitration. He said the role of the EU court “means the EU can make laws which apply in Northern Ireland without any kind of democratic scrutiny or discussion.”

The EU is highly unlikely to agree to the change. The bloc's highest court is seen as the pinnacle of the free trade single market, and Brussels has vowed not to undermine its own order.

Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, said Britain's demand was “very hard to accept.”

“I don’t think we could ever have a situation where we had another court deciding what the rules of the single market are," he said.

Some EU observers say Britain's demand to remove the court's oversight shows it isn't serious about making the Brexit deal work.

Frost repeated the U.K.'s threat to invoke Article 16, a clause allowing either side to suspend the agreement in exceptional circumstances. That would send already testy relations into a deep chill and could lead to a trade war between Britain and the bloc — one that would hurt the U.K. economy more than its much larger neighbor.

The economically tiny but symbolically charged subject of fish, which held up a trade deal to the final minute last year, is also stoking divisions now.

France wants its EU partners to act as one if London wouldn’t grant more licenses for small French fishing boats to roam close to the U.K. crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey, just off France’s Normandy coast.

In France’s parliament last week, Prime Minister Jean Castex accused Britain of reneging on its promise over fishing.

“We see in the clearest way possible that Great Britain does not respect its own signature,” he said.

In a relationship where both sides often fall back on cliches about the other, Castex was harking back to the centuries-old French insult of “Perfidious Albion,” a nation that can never be trusted.

Across the English Channel, U.K. Brexit supporters often depict a conniving EU, hurt by Britain's departure, doing its utmost to make Brexit less than a success by throwing up bureaucratic impediments.

“The EU and we have got into a low equilibrium, (a) somewhat fractious relationship," Frost conceded. "(It) need not always be like that, but ... it takes two to fix it.”


Jill Lawless reported from London.


Follow AP's coverage of post-Brexit developments at

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Divorced UK and EU head for new Brexit fight over N Ireland
The European Union and Britain are back to quarreling less than a year after finalizing Brexit
11:49AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Obama to campaign with McAuliffe in Virginia governor's race
Former President Barack Obama is coming to Richmond this month to campaign with fellow Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the final stretch of the competitive race for Virginia governor
11:44AM ( 10 minutes ago )
International court backs Somalia in sea dispute with Kenya
The International Court of Justice has sided with Somalia in its dispute with neighboring Kenya over a maritime boundary in a case affecting territory potentially rich in oil and gas
11:37AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Advice shifting on aspirin use for preventing heart attacks
Older adults without heart disease shouldn't take daily aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke
11:00AM ( 55 minutes ago )
Americans quit their jobs at a record pace in August
One reason America’s employers are having trouble filling jobs was starkly illustrated in a report Tuesday: Americans are quitting in droves
10:45AM ( 1 hour ago )
Wyoming coroner set to announce how Gaby Petito was killed
Authorities in Wyoming are set to announce how they believe how slain traveler Gaby Petito was killed
10:37AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Holocaust survivor-author Eddie Jaku dies in Sydney aged 101
Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku, who last year published his best-selling memoir, “The Happiest Man on Earth,” has died in Sydney
4:34AM ( 7 hours ago )
California oil spill legal fight likely to last years
Finding the cause of a major oil spill off Southern California, who is to blame and if they will be held accountable could take a long time
3:07AM ( 8 hours ago )
Christmas comes early: EU, UK back to Brexit wrangling
The European Union and Britain are back to quarreling less than a year after finalizing Brexit
2:19AM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Online National News
EU pledges 1 billion euros for Afghan people at virtual G-20
The European Union warned that humanitarian aid for Afghans won’t suffice in itself to keep hunger at bay as winter approaches after the bloc announced a support package worth 1 billion euros ($1.15 billion)
10:44AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: FDA considers boosters of Moderna, J&J vaccines
Many Americans who got Pfizer vaccinations are rolling up their sleeves for a booster shot
10:32AM ( 1 hour ago )
Stocks open a bit higher ahead of earnings, inflation data
Stocks are edging higher in early trading on Wall Street Tuesday as traders wait for more data on inflation and corporate earnings this week
9:45AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
World shares fall as pricier energy feeds inflation fears
Shares have fallen in Europe and Asia as surging prices of oil, coal and other energy fanned fears over inflation
5:12AM ( 6 hours ago )
Asian shares fall as rising energy costs fan inflation fears
Shares have fallen in Asia as surging prices of oil, coal and other energy fan fears over inflation
2:48AM ( 9 hours ago )
The Latest: UN chief decries pandemic's harm to the poor
The United Nations chief says the pandemic has forced more than 100 million people into poverty and left over 4 billion people with little or no social support, health care or income protection
8:07PM ( 15 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
International court backs Somalia in sea dispute with Kenya
The International Court of Justice has sided with Somalia in its dispute with neighboring Kenya over a maritime boundary in a case affecting territory potentially rich in oil and gas
11:37AM ( 19 minutes ago )
French train hits and kills sleeping migrant, 2 others
A train has hit and killed three people and seriously injured another person in southwestern France
11:33AM ( 23 minutes ago )
IMF board confident about leader despite data-rigging claims
The International Monetary Fund has expressed “full confidence” in its managing director
11:29AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Queen Elizabeth II uses cane to walk into Westminster Abbey
Queen Elizabeth II has been seen using a walking cane at a major public event for the first time
11:24AM ( 32 minutes ago )
California wildfires destroy mobile homes; 1 man burned
Officials say powerful California wildfires driven by intense winds have caused damage at two mobile home parks and destroyed some trailers and that one man suffered severe burns
11:24AM ( 32 minutes ago )