The new German government has fired a warning shot at Boris Johnson for Northern Ireland to expect retaliation for breaking the Brexit deal.
The warning came as Mr Johnson reinstated his readiness to postpone the deal by invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in a phone call with Irish counterpart Michael Martin.
A three-way German coalition agreement – installing the Social Democrats’ Olaf Scholz as Angela Merkel’s replacement – backs “countermeasures” if the UK fails to comply with its obligations.
It commits Berlin to “a common European policy towards the United Kingdom” and to “seeking closer bilateral cooperation within this framework”.
But it adds: “We emphasize full compliance with agreements that have been concluded in particular with respect to the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement.
“In the event of non-compliance with agreed standards and procedures, we are committed to the consistent application of all agreed measures and counter-measures.”
The strong stand comes after Britain withdrew from an early suspension of Article 16 of the protocol – apparently because a weakened Johnson is unprepared for a damaging trade war with the EU.
Brussels “welcomes the change in tone” in the ongoing talks, as both sides agreed to focus on drugs and customs red tape, and not on the flashpoint issue of the role of the European Court of Justice.
However, Brexit minister David Frost has insisted that the remnants of Article 16 remain on the table if talks run in the sand – dismissing the move by an EU agreement to reduce Irish Sea border checks.
In another sign of cross-Channel tensions, the French foreign minister launched a fierce attack on Mr Johnson, amid isolated conflict over fishing rights after Brexit.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “The prime minister is a populist who uses all the elements at his disposal to blame others for the problems he faces internally.”
The comments came when Lord Frost addressed a 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, reiterating his threat to trigger Article 16 if necessary, saying he was “optimistic” that it would not prove necessary.
Berlin’s coalition government – for the first time among the three parties – brings together the Social Democrats, the Greens and the right-wing Free Democrats.
It resolved to make the climate emergency its top priority by phasing out coal power by 2030 and expanding renewable sources to cover 80 percent of all energy needs by the end of the decade.
Mr Scholz urged Germans to be vaccinated, announcing a seven-point plan to deal with the “very serious” COVID situation – hinting at the introduction of a vaccine pass.
And Amsterdam may soon have a rival as the European capital of cannabis, with plans to legalize the drug’s recreational use and sale from licensed stores.
“This will control quality, prevent the circulation of contaminants, and ensure the safety of minors,” the coalition contract states.
In a call with Mr Martin, the prime minister said today that if the talks between Lord Frost and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefkovic “soon fail to produce a rebalanced and lasting result, he will have the option of activating Article 16”. Other than “no choice” would be left.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister raised his ongoing concern about the sufficient distance between the UK and EU positions to address issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“The protocol was keeping the north-south trade open, but its implementation was doing great damage to the east-west dimension. We could not have allowed a situation to develop in which the government was unable to provide similar funding to Northern Ireland The way it could be in the rest of Britain.
“Ultimately, Northern Ireland’s place in Britain’s internal market was vital to its long-term prosperity and could not be damaged.
“The implementation of the protocol was now clashing with economic and political realities and required significant change. The Court of Justice (CJEU) was part of this fundamental imbalance as disputes were decided by a one-party court.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /