Northern Ireland Protocol: London seeking confrontation

Brussels has offered to ease the customs controls that have been in place at the Irish Sea border since Brexit, saying it would waive those on goods explicitly destined for Northern Ireland, among other things. Britain's Brexit Minister David Frost had called for renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol and threatened to suspend it entirely. Commentators advise Brussels to adopt a clear stance.

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The Guardian (GB) /

Brussels offering to help Johnson out of mess

The British prime minister should accept the EU's generous offer, The Guardian urges:

“If the goal is making Brexit work for Northern Ireland, Mr Šefčovič’s proposals are the basis for agreement. To insist instead on scrapping the protocol entirely would be to make Northern Ireland a hostage in a reckless game of political brinksmanship that could quickly escalate to an expensive and needless trade war. That is the choice facing Mr Johnson. He is being offered a diplomatic solution to a problem of his own making. It costs him little to accept; it costs Britain a great deal if he refuses.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Don't give in to irresponsible tacticians

Der Tagesspiegel stresses the British cannot expect any more than this step from the EU and outlines a possible scenario:

“The EU must be prepared for the possibility of the United Kingdom unilaterally terminating the Northern Ireland Protocol. This means that the Union would then have to counter this by imposing punitive tariffs on British goods and services. London seems convinced that Brussels will buckle and not dare to take this momentous step ... because it doesn't want to jeopardise the fragile peace in Northern Ireland with a looming trade war. Brussels must show the irresponsible tacticians on the island that they have severely miscalculated this time.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Meet deceit with virtue

The British prime minister is deliberately seeking confrontation, Le Monde warns:

“There is probably some truth to the [most recent] statements of his former advisor Dominic Cummings according to which from the very beginning Johnson wanted to trample on the Brexit agreement, which he only accepted in order to win the election in 2019: the British prime minister's sincerity is questionable. The European Union must take this unfortunate fact into account and stand firm. Only in this way can it preserve peace in Ireland and the EU's internal market. The 27 must display the same virtues in the face of British demands that they demonstrated during the endless Brexit negotiations: unwavering cohesion and the ability to compromise.”

L'Echo (BE) /

London can't be relied on

Given the Johnson government's behavior toward Brussels so far, L'Echo is also sceptical:

“The British 'partner' is not trustworthy. The Johnson government already demonstrated this last year with its Internal Market Bill, when it threatened not to honour the withdrawal agreement it had signed and ratified. Since then, London has continued to develop a destructive rhetoric towards the EU. The Johnson government is calling for the reopening of a protocol that it itself negotiated, signed and ratified just a few months ago. ... If the EU signs this new agreement with London, how can it be sure that all the necessary provisions have been made this time round?”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

A new dispute settlement mechanism needed

The Irish Independent calls for a compromise in the row over whether the ECJ should remain the supervisory authority when it comes to compliance with the Northern Ireland Protocol:

“Among the British Brexiteer brigade there is particular hatred of the European Court - here again it is especially tempting for Frost to play to the gallery. Speculation differs widely as to how far Downing Street will push things. There has to be a realisation within the Johnson cabal that there may come a point when Brussels says enough is enough. ... One option would be the establishment of new dispute settlement mechanisms, leaving the European Court of Justice an option of last resort.”