Wednesday, December 8, 2021

UK-EU Brexit spat over N Ireland clouds G7 leaders summit

FALMOUTH, England — Turbulence from the divorce between the U.K. and the European Union provided an unwanted distraction at the Group of Seven summit taking place in southwest England, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying Saturday that post-Brexit agreements will fail if the E.U. continues to take a “theologically draconian” approach to the rules.

Johnson held meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the bloc’s top officials on the sidelines of the summit he is hosting. Afterward, the prime minister claimed the E.U. was not taking a “sensible or pragmatic” approach to post-Brexit arrangements. He threatened to use an emergency clause to suspend agreed-upon rules if the bloc did not compromise.

Britain and the E.U. are locked in an escalating diplomatic feud over Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. that borders the 27-nation bloc. The E.U. is angry over the British government’s delay in implementing new checks on some goods coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. At the same time, Britain says the bills are imposing a significant burden on businesses and destabilizing Northern Ireland’s hard-won peace.

The new arrangements, designed to keep an open border between Ireland and its northern neighbor, have angered Northern Ireland’s British unionists, who say they weaken ties with the rest of the U.K. Tensions over the new trade rules were a contributing factor to a week of street violence in April, mainly in unionist areas of Northern Ireland, that saw youths pelt police with bricks, fireworks, and firebombs.

“We want the best possible relations with the U.K. Both sides must implement what we agreed on. There is complete E.U. unity on this,” she said.

Johnson told Sky News at the summit site in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, that “the treaty we signed, I signed, is perfectly reasonable.” Still, he added: “I don’t think that the interpretation or application of the protocol (by the E.U.) is sensible or pragmatic.”

The E.U. says Britain must fully implement the agreement, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, that the two sides agreed and ratified. It is threatening legal action if the U.K. does not fully bring in the checks, including a ban on chilled meats such as sausages from England, Scotland, and Wales going to Northern Ireland from next month.

Britain accused the bloc of taking a rigid approach to the rules and urged it to be more flexible to avoid dubbed a “sausage war.” U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Saturday that if the E.U. took a “bloody-minded and purist” approach, Britain would have to act to protect the U.K.’s internal market and ensure that British-produced goods can be sold in every part of the country.

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