Brexit debate ‘far from settled down’ says Alastair Campbell
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The UK’s Brexit minister Lord Frost has argued the Northern Ireland Protocol simply isn’t working, and wants large parts of the post-Brexit trading mechanism overhauled or completely torn up. But the EU has flat-out rejected such demands, instead offering the UK a set of proposals that ultimately fell well short of their demands. Both sides continued to be locked in talks, with weekly meetings between Lord Frost and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic so far failing to find a breakthrough.
The repeated collapse in negotiations has led Lord Frost to continue to threaten the triggering of Article 16 of the protocol – which could see the agreement completely ripped apart.
However, the EU has warned it will retaliate with a vengeance if such a move is made, sparking fears a potentially destructive trade war could be imminent.
Alistair Jones, Associate Politics Professor at De Montfort University in Leicester, warned the EU could be able to absorb the impact of any trade conflict much better than the UK.
He told Express.co.uk: “Some member states of the EU have negligible trade with the UK and will not see much difference.
“Where the EU will be better off is in their size.
“They will be able to source alternatives to UK-sourced products within the EU, at a cost that will be far less than the UK trying to do similar.”
But Professor Jones warned the UK fishing industry, which has grown increasingly frustrated at the Brexit deal agreed with the EU, would feel the full force of any punishment from Brussels.
He said although the industry contributes only a small amount to the UK’s total GDP, it has huge significant importance and “many businesses could go under”
The politics expert commented: “The EU will target the most export-sensitive industries – fishing being the biggest.
“Although this contributes a negligible amount to total UK GDP, symbolically it will hurt – many businesses could go under.”
Professor Jones added: “The businesses not trading with the EU or Northern Ireland will see small impacts, but they will be incremental.
“More rigorously enforced border checks will see a backlog develop very quickly, as was seen back in December 2020.
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“The fishing industry, which has already been hammered by the deal negotiated by the Johnson Government, will take a second beating. S
“Significant parts of it – especially the live sales – may fold. That will leach into other parts of the economy.”
Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the body representing fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, admitted the UK fishing industry is worried by the consequences of Article 16 being triggered.
But he insisted the impact would be felt heavily on both sides of the Channel.
Mr Deas told Express.co.uk: “Yes, of course we have concerns about what the consequences would be for trading fish and shellfish into the EU market but the consequences would fall on all business in the supply chain.
“There are many businesses in the supply chain on both sides of the channel that depend on the supply of raw material from UK waters.
“If there is no trade agreement it seems to us that the fisheries elements of the TCA would also be at risk, although there are likely to be several steps in the process.
“Escalation in trade retaliation, or zero tolerance enforcement, would result in adverse consequences for both parties.”
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