Far from finally turning the page on five long years of Brexit acrimony, the European parliament’s overwhelming vote to approve the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement is set to open a whole new chapter of potential disputes.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen referred pointedly to the “possibility for unilateral remedial measures” in the agreement, going out of her way to say it would “only ever be as good as its implementation and enforcement in practice.”
And that looks likely to be bumpy at best. British delays to Northern Ireland border checks have further eroded EU faith in the UK’s intentions – which, many in the bloc now fear, boil down to trying to ignore as much of what it has signed up to as possible.
There is already trouble looming over fishing rights. Clément Beaune, France’s Europe minister, warned this week that Paris will block City access to EU markets if Britain does not swiftly grant French boats licences to fish in British waters.
“As long as the agreement is not implemented, in full, we will take retaliatory measures in other sectors if necessary,” Beaune said. “The UK must respect its commitments – otherwise we will be as brutal and difficult as necessary.”
As Manfred Weber, leader of the parliament’s largest political bloc, put it bluntly: “We do not trust Boris Johnson’s government.” Ça promet, as they say in France: it all looks very promising. Anyone hoping for the end of Brexit is likely to be disappointed.
Meanwhile, in another sign of turbulent times ahead in EU politics, polls in Germany have the Greens ahead – sometimes comfortably – of Angela Merkel’s conservatives. After 15 years of stability in the EU’s powerhouse, that would shake things up. (Jon Henley, Europe correspondent, The Guardian).
My comment: All this was totally foreseeable, made worse by Brexiteers who are, to be kind, delusional, and a Prime Minister who thinks everything is a great joke at best and too complicated to get his mind round the boring detail on a daily basis.
I am not a nationalist ( Epicurus would have thought nationalism puzzling) but I feel deeply sad to see such dire incompetence and the impending decline of England of what used to be a vibrant, creative country.