Brexit trade war between UK and EU is 'very possible' says expert
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Sir Ivan Rogers, a former Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union, told LBC that from a European point of view, the Government’s push back on the Northern Ireland protocol looks like a “repudiation of treaty obligations”. He said he would “not underestimate” the extent of anger both from the French and “plenty of other European quarters” over the negotiations and warned a “trade war” was a stark possibility.
Asked how likely a trade war could be if negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol fall through, Sir Ivan said: “Well it is very possible.
“We produced this bill. I have no doubt that UK officials will be saying to the other side that the bill won’t come into force for probably a year.
“They will say ‘There will be plenty of opposition in the Commons and plenty of opposition in the Lords so please don’t retaliate’.
“I think the other side will say ‘We can and should retaliate. This is a breach of your international obligations and we will take you to court on it’.
“I think this is very bad for science, research and many other things because they will obviously freeze the so-called positive agenda and refuse to do positive business outside the Russia-Ukraine war.
“I think they will look for specific, targeted retailliation they could take against the UK Government primarily on economic issues as well.
“I regret all of that because I think if you get into a trade war it is very difficult to get out of it. Seen from a European perspective, this looks like a terrible breach of faith. It looks like deliberate unilateralism to repudiate your treaty obligations and override those in domestic legislation.
“I would not underestimate the extent of outrage I hear from European quarters, and not just French quarters, I mean there’s plenty of European quarters saying: ‘Look, this is precisely the kind of activity on the rule of law that we object to in many authoritarian countries. Why is the UK putting itself in this position and how is it that you expect that we must not react and [instead] take it on the chin?’
“The Prime Minister is saying he is putting a loaded gun on the table. Well, what do you do as a negotiator on the other side? You put a bigger loaded gun on the table, don’t you.”
The Government intends to use domestic law to override parts of the protocol governing Irish Sea trade.
The post-Brexit arrangements were jointly agreed by the UK and EU as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and soured relations could threaten the UK’s access to the EU single market.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss has been overseeing the renewed negotiations, but ministers have expressed fear that the decisions could lead to a trade war.
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During the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson allegedly snapped at Ms Truss over issues with the protocol talks.
Ms Truss’ toughening up of parts of the legislation reportedly angered the PM, eventually leading him to “snap” at her during the meeting, according to the Financial Times.
Mr Johnson was reportedly hoping for a “negotiated solution”, particularly one that could ensure the UK remained able to trade in the EU.
It is also believed a number of cabinet ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, were seeking assurances the legislation did not break international law.
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