Blood in the Water: France and Germany Call on EU to ‘Get Tough’ on Next UK PM on Brexit

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron as he arrives for talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on May 9, 2022. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

Diplomats from Berlin and Paris have reportedly told Brussels that the EU must take a hardline stance on Brexit and the continued disputes surrounding Northern Ireland sovereignty and trade when the next Prime Minister takes over from Boris Johnson.

France and Germany are reportedly leading a charge to take the “hardest possible line” in negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol with the next PM, EU sources have told Britain’s Daily Telegraph.

According to the broadsheet, which is closely aligned with the governing Tory Party in Britain, the two major powers of the EU have warned that should Brussels remove some of the trade restrictions imposed between Ulster and the rest of the UK, it could allow British products enter their markets with different standards. Consequently, they have threatened to possibly remove the Republic of Ireland from the EU’s Single Market — which the EU would not allow, given it treats the single market as sacrosanct — therefore boxing in the bloc’s negotiator Maros Sefcovic.

The current state of affairs saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government acquiesce to trade barriers in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Brexit divorce deal in order to satisfy the EU’s demand that no hard border was imposed between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This was said to be necesary because such a barrier could threaten to destabilise the Good Friday peace agreement.

However, the British government and Unionists in Northern Ireland have argued that by effectively cutting off the region from the rest of the UK and by empowering the European Court of Justice to settle trade disputes, the EU itself has threatened the peace, with the pro-Unionist DUP party refusing to form a government in Stormont with anti-Brexit Irish nationalist parties until the Protocol is significantly changed or is scrapped entirely.

The EU has so far received the backing from the Democrat administration of Joe Biden, who often highlights his Irish ancestry and his antagonism to the UK. Yet, in a sign of just how untenable the European Union’s position has become, even left-wing globalist former UK PM Tony Blair has urged the bloc to compromise so not to threaten the peace in Ireland, which he helped negotiate in the late 1990s.

Blair said that in order to break the logjam, there will “require significant movement from the EU on its stated position around the protocol’s interpretation.”

This will be difficult if France and Germany maintain their hardline stance, something which appears unlikely given French President Emmanuel Macron’s determination to see Brexit fail in order to prevent further defections from the bloc and the politically damaged German coalition government wanting to be perceived as strong on the issue as opposed to their floundering approach to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been facilitated with billions from Berlin in exchange for energy.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving office in September, it remains to be seen how strong of a stance the British government will take on the NI Protocol, with many fearing that Brexit could be in jeopardy without Johnson. To date, the hopefuls to replace Boris Johnson — former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss — have committed to support the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill to remove border checks and red tape between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Announcing the Bill last month, Truss said that while the government would look to negotiate with the EU, to lift the restrictions that “currently treat people and businesses in Northern Ireland differently from those in the rest of the UK.” Yet, Truss said that if the European Union fails to come to an acceptable agreement, the UK would act independently and scrap the Protocol unilaterally.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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