Boris Criticises ‘Abusive’ EU for Not Negotiating in ‘Good Faith’

Daina Le Lardic - Pool/Getty Images
Daina Le Lardic - Pool/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he does not believe the EU is negotiating Brexit in good faith, making it necessary to legislate for powers to stop it from using provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement with the bloc in an “abusive” way.

Britain technically left the EU in January, but remains a member-state in all but name until the end of the ongoing “transition” period at the end of the year, while a new partnership is negotiated — or not.

If a comprehensive deal on trade and other matters cannot be struck by then, Britain and the EU should revert largely to a standard World Trade Organization (WTO) terms relationship — ‘No Deal’ — excepting special provisions for the British province of Northern Ireland, which shares an open land border with the EU member-state of Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK to do so.

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) with the EU, it was agreed that the province would submit to most EU regulations and state aid provisions in a No Deal scenario in order to maintain that border. However, the Johnson administration now fears that Brussels has adopted an “extreme” interpretation of these terms which would allow them to blockade the importation of food to Nothern Ireland from Great Britain, and extend its control over state aid to the British mainland via firms with business dealings in the province.

“We assumed our EU friends and partners would want to negotiate in good faith,” Johnson said of the situation in comments to The Sun, noting that the British have been “paid up members [of the EU] for 45 years”.

With that apparently not being the case, however, he is now pushing forward to “ring-fence [the Withdrawal Agreement] to put in watertight bulkheads that will stop friends and partners making abusive or extreme interpretations of the provisions” — a push which the EU and its British apologists have decried as a breach of international law.

This followed the Prime Minister confirming to a parliamentary committee that he did not believe the EU was negotiating in good faith — which was also a requirement of the Withdrawal Agreement, in particular by its reticence over agreeing to give Britain third country listing with respect to food imports — despite the fact that it currently meets or even exceeds all of the EU’s agricultural regulations.

Johnson said that the British side had asked the EU, “You’re not actually going to blockade our food, are you? And they said ‘Oh… we must see what your regulatory framework is going to be’,” putting on a mock French accent in imitation of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

“It’s complete nonsense because our regulatory framework is going to be identical to the EU’s,” Johnson added — perhaps slightly concerningly for Brexiteers who believed Britain had been going to make use of its newfound independence to diverge from the bloc on some issues, for example by banning the cruel trade in live animal exports.

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