Why would anyone trust Brexit Britain again?

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Other countries Watching the drama will unfold with caution when it comes to dealing with the UK, according to L. Alan Winters of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex in England.

“It certainly raises questions about the reliability of this government,” he told CNN Business. “I don’t think it will lead to a complete halt in negotiations between the UK and other countries, but I do think it will make things a bit more difficult,” he added.

To be clear, the capricious behavior of the British government is a bad image, but it will not necessarily be fatal to future trade alliances. However, it could weaken its negotiating position.

“The UK is a substantial economy” and is an “attractive trading partner in many ways,” said Simon Usherwood, professor of politics and international studies at the Open University in England.

Potential partners, such as New Zealand and other Pacific nations, could simply insist on stronger means of settling disputes in case the UK tries to backtrack on a deal, he said. he told CNN Business.

“If you wanted a trade deal with the UK now is probably the best time to get one on your own terms,” ​​Usherwood added, pointing to the very accommodating deal the UK government has given Australia. . “The UK is in a difficult situation. It needs to show that leaving the EU was a worthwhile undertaking.”

Chaos in Northern Ireland

For now at least, the British government’s approach will further strain relations with the European Union, which remains by far the country’s biggest trading partner.

At the heart of the problem is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was included in the Brexit deal to avoid the return of a physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which is a member of the European Union.
Border checks and guard posts disappeared following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to the island of Ireland after 30 years of violent conflict between Catholic nationalists, who want a country unified, and loyal Protestants in the United Kingdom.

The European Union was concerned that a physical barrier could again become a source of tension and it would not agree to police the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to protect the integrity of the EU market. Johnson, who helped lead the Brexit campaign, instead agreed that Northern Ireland would remain subject to EU market rules and would check goods moving from the UK to Northern Ireland .

But these new controls on goods moving between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland have created chaos, upending supply chains, increasing costs for businesses and reducing the availability of some products in UK supermarkets. North Ireland. According to the UK government, at least 200 UK businesses have stopped serving the country due to post-Brexit bureaucracy.

On Thursday, the British Generic Manufacturers Association, a trade body for generic drug makers, said onerous new trade rules have forced its companies to put more than 2,000 drugs on notice for withdrawal from Northern Ireland.

The British government now wants “a significant change” to the protocol, which a document released this week says is the cause of “most of the current friction” with the European Union. He is in fact trying to renegotiate an agreement he reached seven months ago, presenting proposals that he knows the European Union cannot accept.
The document ‘reads like a client’s submission to their divorce lawyer – full of shifting blame, fake sadness and passive aggression,’ Winters and Michael Gasiorek of the UK’s Observatory of Divorce wrote on Thursday. trade policy in a blog.

“This reflects weakness and can only harm the government’s international standing,” they added.

The UK has a lot at stake. Brexit has increased costs for UK exporters, disrupting trade with its most important market and hurting long-term economic growth. He needs new trade deals to offset some of the damage caused by Brexit.

But if it fails to abide by the treaties it has already signed, the British government could find it harder to strike deals on favorable terms with other countries, including the United States.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing his Brexit deal on December 24, 2020 days before a self-imposed deadline.

The Threat to “Global Britain”

“We will not accept a renegotiation of the protocol,” European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said in a statement on Wednesday. “Compliance with international legal obligations is of paramount importance,” he added.

That sentiment is shared by Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand – a country with which Britain is currently engaged in trade talks and which has the power to prevent her from joining. Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The CPTPP is an 11-country free trade pact that includes Mexico, Australia, Canada and Singapore. Although it does not offset economic losses resulting from Brexit, it has nevertheless been described by UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss as a “post-Brexit scintillating price”.

Britain's trade ambitions in the Pacific won't outweigh Brexit

In a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs earlier this month, Ardern said New Zealand had agreed to negotiations that will pave the way for the UK to join the partnership.

“The CPTPP is our highest quality agreement,” she added. “Those who aspire to join will need to be able to meet his high standards.”

Some trade pundits interpreted the comment as addressing Britain. “If it wasn’t for the UK, it was a complete waste of time,” Winters told CNN Business.

Even sharper warnings came from other quarters. For any British government, a trade deal with the United States would be by far the biggest economic win for a post-Brexit Britain.

It always seemed like a long time, given that neither former President Donald Trump nor current President Joe Biden has had much of an appetite to sign major international treaties, against a backdrop of a broader move away from trade liberalization. trades.

But recent actions by the British government are not helping his cause. In a statement this week, US Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle chastised the UK government’s approach to Northern Ireland and underlined the “strong and bipartisan” support for the Good Friday Agreement.

“The UK Government negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol, accepted it and its parliament voted on it. Yet almost immediately after it came into force, the UK Government attempted to shirk its responsibilities under the protocol,” he said.

“Their latest statement and proposed changes only continue this trend and only serve to further destabilize Northern Ireland,” he added.

Although Biden has made it clear that his main focus is on domestic issues, he has also repeatedly warned Britain against making the Good Friday deal a “victim of Brexit”.

“Biden has a particular interest in Northern Ireland and its stability, and sees the UK as the antagonist in this discussion,” said Sam Lowe, senior fellow at the Center for European Reform.

“Ongoing disputes with the EU over Northern Ireland and threats to renege on its commitments create a problem with the United States, but I am not convinced that it creates huge problems with other other countries,” he added.

David Henig, UK director of the European Center for International Political Economy, said other countries might view the dispute over Northern Ireland as a unique case.

“Other countries will certainly be aware that the UK is going back on [its agreements with the European Union], but each negotiation is distinct,” Henig said. “It won’t be seen as a good thing, but I’m not sure they won’t separate it from their own discussions. Northern Ireland is clearly a special case.”

With grace periods on checks on certain goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland due to expire at the end of September, including animal products such as chilled meats, further political wrangling between the UK and EU are coming.

“I can pretty easily see this continuing for quite a while without change,” Henig said.

“The state of uncertainty could become the status quo,” Lowe added.

Northern Ireland will bear the brunt of this sad state of affairs. But Johnson’s dream of a “global Britain” will also suffer the consequences.

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