After threatening Britain with new legal action if border checks are not implemented, the EU has been accused of not sticking to their own narrative on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Northern Ireland effectively remains in the EU’s single market to avoid a hard border, with a number of controls on goods shipped from mainland Britain. So far, Downing Street has rejected any proposals that would bind it to EU regulations, even if only temporarily.
Last month, the two sides agreed to extend the amnesty for chilled meats moving between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
This latest amnesty will now expire in September, with both parties still negotiating a long-term solution.
Emeritus Professor Adrian Guelke has now accused the EU of betraying their own narrative by agreeing to the extension.
“The previous narrative was about how unbending and unwilling to make any concessions the EU was,” Professor Guelke told the media.
“They were very strict on the Protocol and how it should be implemented. But the EU granted the extension which doesn’t stick with their narrative that suggests there is a degree of flexibility.
“I think there is a feeling of irritation that after the EU granted the extension, it was as if the UK’s response was not very appreciative of what the EU has done. Increasingly, the difficulties with the Protocol are being handled at a technical level. It will take a lot of sting out of the situation,” he added.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has threatened to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol unless an agreement to reduce EU red tape is reached.
If an agreement on customs controls cannot be reached, EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic has raised the prospect of a future trade conflict. However, he stated that legal action is not the “preferred solution.”
Professor Guelke claims that any legal action threatened by the EU is unlikely to succeed and that tensions in the region have somewhat subsided.
“There is a bit of back and forth with the EU and the UK over the Protocol. But in terms of the situation within Northern Ireland, I think the tensions over the Protocol have reduced somewhat. What is not attached to any of these challenges is time.
“It seems to me that these sort of things are not happening immediately and people can always draw back from them at any point. So I do not see this as a big crisis in the making,” he added.
He went on to say that Unionists are still depressed and bitter about the Protocol, but Professor Guelke believes they will not be able to overturn it.
“Of course, there are court cases,” Professor Guelke added, “but it is legislation in UK law. The ball is in the court of the central Government. I don’t think people in Northern Ireland feel they have direct control.
“When there was a sort of interplay of what was said nationally and in local situations, there was a bit more of a sense the two levels were connecting. I don’t think there is much of that now.”