Will future schoolchildren learn how an argument over sausages led to a crisis in which Britain’s main ally, America, became hostile and its former EU partners became vicious?
Will they read about a sausage dispute that triggered the repeal of an international treaty and set in motion events that led to a united Ireland?
I’m afraid so. The worst-imbroglio, along with its forbidding parent the Northern Ireland Protocol, took another leap toward a showdown yesterday when the government made a proposal to the EU that it must have known didn’t have the slightest chance of passing. are accepted.
The United Kingdom, it will be recalled, signed a deal with Brussels to escape the clutches that meant that part of its territory – Northern Ireland – had to remain within the EU’s internal market and was therefore subject to regulation of the block.
This arrangement of dividing a sovereign country with a trade border is unique.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently questioned whether Northern Ireland is part of the UK, but I can assure him that legally it is, as are Truro, Cardiff or Inverness.
The ramifications of this bizarre agreement were vividly described on Radio 4’s Today Program yesterday morning by Archie Norman, chairman of Marks & Spencer, which has a large presence in Northern Ireland.
According to Mr Norman, a former Tory MP, M&S must employ 14 full-time vets who ‘just check boxes and fill out forms’ to get food to Northern Ireland. Sandwiches “typically require three veterinary certificates to get through.”
If one page of the endless forms is filled in in a blue instead of black font, the whole cart is turned away. While form-filling errors are incredibly rare, 40 percent of wagons are rejected and often the entire contents must be destroyed.
The fallout from a bizarre deal with Brussels that required Northern Ireland to be kept within the EU’s single market, and thus subject to the bloc’s regulations, was vividly described yesterday by Archie Norman, chairman of Marks & Spencer
Norman predicts empty shelves and higher prices for Northern Irish consumers.
The effects of this “Byzantine, pointless, narrow-minded bureaucracy” will be “incendiary” if people in the Province realize they are being treated as second-class citizens in their own country.
Other British supermarkets have made similar complaints about the difficulties in shipping food to Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, the situation is about to get much worse.
Under the current agreement, chilled meat, including sausage, will not be allowed to enter Northern Ireland from Great Britain from October. The ban was supposed to go into effect on June 30, but that deadline has been extended.
Supermarket food and medicines shipped from the UK to Northern Ireland must comply with EU rules and be monitored. Retailers who ship packages from the mainland also have to fill out paperwork, as if they were going abroad. A declaration may also be required for personal parcels.
No wonder Brexit Secretary Lord Frost said yesterday that ‘we cannot go on as we are’ and that the way the Northern Ireland Protocol is being applied is damaging the ‘structure’ of the UK.
Hence the government’s proposal to use some sort of ‘honesty box’. Customs controls and certificates would be waived for goods destined only for Northern Ireland and not for the Republic of Ireland, which is in the EU. Medicines would be excluded from the scope of the protocol.
Brussels has vetoed a similar plan in the past, and yesterday afternoon’s near-immediate rejection was completely predictable – as Lord Frost must have realized.
Mr Norman predicts empty shelves (pictured in Donegall Place Marks and Spencer in Belfast) and higher prices for Northern Irish consumers
Firstly, the EU considers its internal market rules to be sacred. It will not tolerate deviations from its food and sanitation regulations, even in the case of Britain, whose own standards – as a recent member of the EU – remain just as high.
It is perfectly true that, like non-EU Switzerland, we could join the bloc’s rules and regulations, but that would mean accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court, which would negate much of the point of Brexit. to make.
The second reason Brussels won’t budge is that it has a punitive attitude towards Britain that won’t change. Inspections on the relatively small amount of goods passing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are responsible for 20 percent of all EU controls.
How else can one explain Brussels’ heavy-handed approach – trucks returned because someone filled out a form in blue instead of black? It is petty and vindictive, and deliberate.
Incidentally, the same vengeful spirit can be seen in the EU’s proposal earlier this week to install Spanish border guards in Gibraltar, a British crown colony. Not even the Spanish government has made such an outrageous suggestion directly.
Needless to say, I’d be overjoyed if the EU suddenly became flexible and backed away from requiring these onerous and intrusive rules to be applied. But it’s clear that won’t happen.
Lord Frost is seemingly doing his utmost to appear balanced and reasonable so that no one can say that the UK has not striven to reach an agreement in a civilized manner.
Critics can justifiably say that the government is largely self-inflicted.
Although Boris Johnson said in August 2020 that ‘there will be no border in the Irish Sea: over my corpse’, that is exactly what he has established. And must now be undone.
All that can be said in part is that by the time he became Prime Minister in July 2019, Theresa May had sold the pass by accepting the erroneous insistence of the EU and the Irish government that the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could be. t be monitored by cameras.
Such a system was said, not only by the EU and the Irish government, but also by Irish-American politicians, including (now US President) Joe Biden, to threaten the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which is a kind of peace in reached Northern Ireland.
Although Boris Johnson (pictured at a vaccine center in February 2021) said in August 2020 that ‘there will be no boundary in the Irish Sea: over my corpse’, that is exactly what he has established
What an irony that the ‘solution’ that the EU has forced on the UK now poses a much greater threat to peace. Many Unionists and Loyalists bitterly dislike the wall built in their own country. In the spring there was unrest, which could erupt again.
In fact, it’s probably safe to say that if the European Union had its way – turning Northern Ireland into virtually a separate country – the Good Friday Agreement would be in grave danger. If only President Biden could get his head around that proposal.
The truth is that the EU and the Irish government are largely responsible for the current unfortunate state of affairs – although that doesn’t stop Irish ministers from Dunderhead adamantly repeating that it’s all Brexit’s fault. Will they ever understand that the UK has left the EU and that both sides should make the best of it?
Under the terms of the protocol, Britain has the right to trigger Article 16, which can suspend parts of the Brexit deal. But even that draconian course of action may not be enough, and complete repudiation of the Protocol may be necessary.
It is not too late for Brussels to show common sense. But I fear I see trouble ahead: unrest in Northern Ireland, the EU and the UK at odds, and President Biden unwittingly criticizing America’s closest ally.
None of that will be good for Europe and the West, as Russian President Vladimir Putin grins and China continues its march towards global supremacy.