EU and UK: what kind of relationship do they want?
The UK and the EU are currently not on good terms with each other. Several unresolved aspects of the post-Brexit agreement are causing additional problems in the dispute over Covid-19 vaccine shortages. Vaccine exports from the EU are being closely monitored and could be banned, while checks of goods at the border with Northern Ireland are proving highly contentious. Commentators call for de-escalation.
Brussels should be more willing to compromise
The EU's announced legal action in the dispute over checks on goods crossing the Northern Ireland border is not at all helpful, the Irish Times complains:
“What is the EU's rationale for exaggerating the risk and demanding immediate, hopeless levels of enforcement? Is it just bureaucratic intransigence? If London is seeking to renegotiate the protocol, Brussels is making its case for it. ... Brussels may feel it needs to impose discipline on an untrustworthy partner but it also needs to engage in some unilateral de-dramatisation. Alarm in Northern Ireland at the EU's perception of the sea border is extending beyond unionist Brexiteers.”
Frosty approach is risky
David Frost, Britain's minister in charge of forging a new relationship with the EU, should consider taking a more diplomatic approach to the negotiations, The Spectator urges:
“Michael Gove's [Minister for the Cabinet Office and Frost's predecessor] approach ... is said to be able to be summed up by the idea that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Follow that metaphor and Frost is seen to be leaning towards the vinegar approach. ... Many MPs believe that the EU's behaviour over the vaccine debacle - when the European Commission planned to activate Article 16 of the protocol, only to backtrack after widespread condemnation - has weakened Brussels' resolve and ought to make discussions on improving the Northern Ireland Protocol more constructive. The question: will Frost's antics bounce the EU into submission or do they mean EU officials simply get their backs up?”
Singapore on the Thames
Criminologist Federico Varese warns in La Repubblica of the undesirable effects of Boris Johnson's plans to create freeports:
“Eight special economic zones (also called freeports) through which goods can pass without too many checks and in which companies can build, produce and export goods under a favourable tax regime. This will create offshore areas that compete directly with Dubai and Singapore, and which could quickly become the black holes of capitalism in the 21st century. ... Revitalising the economy is undoubtedly a noble goal, but it must go hand in hand with increased control of illegal trade in high-risk areas. Otherwise, after Brexit, England risks becoming the ideal destination for tax evaders and fraudsters.”