EU and UK neared terminal rupture five years before Brexit vote after eurozone clash

Brexit voter calls for second referendum and move to the Euro

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In recent months, Brussels has hampered trade between Britain and Northern Ireland by being inflexible on strict post-Brexit customs checks on goods at the border. The EU’s stubborn stance on Northern Ireland has resulted in food shipments to the country being delayed, and an effective ban on almost 300 medicines being imported. EU bosses have insisted they need to protect the single market and that the UK agreed to these checks in the withdrawal agreement.

Brussels even took legal action against the UK Government over the situation and EU-British relations have nosedived as a result.

However, even before Brexit, Britain’s ties with its European neighbours were nearly ripped apart over a deal to tackle the eurozone crisis, according to an unearthed account.

Then-Prime Minister David Cameron was the only European leader to ‘veto’ the agreement, which aimed to save the bloc’s ailing currency, the euro.

Speaking on Episode 1 of the 2019 BBC documentary, ‘Inside Europe: 10 Years of Turmoil’, the former Prime Minister’s Europe adviser Ivan Rogers said this caused a moment of “near terminal rupture between the UK and the EU”.

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Mr Cameron was battling growing anti-EU sentiment among Conservative backbench MPs ahead of his showdown with his EU counterparts at a summit in Brussels.

He had also vowed to return to London with concessions for the capital’s financial services sector.

But Mr Cameron was met with strong opposition, especially in the form of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who rejected his “unacceptable” demands.

He subsequently voted against the agreement in 2011, which the Tories hailed as the first time a prime minister had vetoed an agreement since Britain joined the European Community in 1973.

Mr Rogers said: “He gets cheered to the echo in the House of Commons, gets a poll boost from it.

“You know, ‘I vetoed the treaty, I’m the first British prime minister to have the guts to veto a treaty’.

“But of course, privately, he’s saying to us, when push comes to shove these people are always going to put their own interests and the euro’s interests first and they are always going to try to find a route around me.”

Mr Cameron eventually conceded to hold an in/out referendum on the UK’s EU membership.

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The 2016 vote saw the public vote to leave the EU by a majority of 52 percent.

The UK left the EU last year and an 11-month transition period to allow time for the two sides to agree their new relationship ended on New Year’s Eve.

Since then, London and Brussels have sparred over the exact terms of their post-Brexit divorce deal.

The biggest flashpoint has been the Protocol governing trade between Britain and Northern Ireland after Brexit.

In March, the EU launched legal proceedings against the UK after it unilaterally extended the grace periods allowing businesses to get used to the new regulations including stringent customs inspections.

Brussels has since paused the legal action but major trade difficulties have remained.

This week the Brexit chief negotiator Lord Frost revealed that between 280 and 290 medicines will no longer be able to be transported from Britain to Northern Ireland once the grace period expires on January 1, 2022.

His announcement marks the latest casualty for Northern Ireland, which has already seen its imports of fresh meat and other goods decimated by EU rules.

Lord Frost has called for “significant” changes to be made to the Protocol, but his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic has refused to renegotiate that part of the Brexit deal.

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