Trade war is avoidable as EU-UK tensions grow, says expert -

7 July, Thursday

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Trade war is avoidable as EU-UK tensions grow, says expert

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An EU-UK 'trade war' can be avoided, says a British politics expert, after London said it would push ahead with a new law to override parts of a post-Brexit trade deal. 
In a statement to parliament on Tuesday, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss said planned legislation would ease the movement of goods, apply Britain's tax regime in Northern Ireland and hand London more say over the province's laws. 
The move has inflamed tensions with Ireland and the European Union, prompting accusations of British brinksmanship - the pushing of events to the brink of active conflict - and prompting the threat of a trade war. 
Amelia Hadfield, professor of politics at the University of Surrey, said that the two sides can "back away from brinksmanship…if the UK, not necessarily climbs down, but perhaps approaches [the EU] with more softer requirements." 
Hadfield described the latest move as "insurance policy" for the UK in case Brussels refuses to allow a change to the transport of goods between the UK and Northern Ireland. 
"This is something it [UK government] felt it needed to do to lay down a law seeking a new regulatory outlook, to remove the burdens on British goods sold in Northern Ireland," Hadfield told GCTN's Global Business program.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed his desire for a negotiated settlement, noted Hadfield, who labeled the "hard words" from both sides "public affairs."
'Protocol isn't working'
The British government has framed the problems of the Brexit trade deal as threatening relations within Northern Ireland, which has had peace between pro-British and pro-Irish factions since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. 
"The situation in Northern Ireland is of grave concern," said Truss. She did not specify which day the government would publish the statement."
"The Belfast Good Friday Agreement was a huge step-change for Northern Ireland in a positive direction. We're now seeing that undermined by the fact that the Northern Ireland protocol isn't working," she added. 
Hadfield conceded that should tensions increase, the UK could end up "tearing up the protocol… and then we really will be in a bit of a mess."
Ireland's concern
Ireland's foreign minister said the prospect of Britain introducing new unilateral laws on post-Brexit trade to Northern Ireland was of "great concern."
"I deeply regret the decision of the British government to introduce legislation in the coming weeks... The path chosen is of great concern," Simon Coveney said after Truss set out the plans on Tuesday. 
"Such unilateral action in respect of an internationally binding agreement is damaging to trust and will serve only to make it more challenging to find solutions," Coveney said in a statement that also welcomed London's preference for a negotiated solution with the EU.
What is the Northern Ireland protocol? 
As part of Britain's departure from the EU, Johnson's government agreed to effectively leave Northern Ireland within the EU's single market for goods and customs union, given its open border with bloc member Ireland.
That created a customs border in the sea between the rest of the United Kingdom and the province, which pro-British communities say erodes their place within the UK.
London says the attendant bureaucracy created by the Northern Ireland Protocol is intolerable and that it is now threatening the 1998 peace agreement that mostly ended three decades of sectarian violence in the province.


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