express– Brexit talks between UK minister Lord Frost and EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic are due to resume over the coming days, with a range of Brexit issues, specifically around trade, still far from being resolved. Top of the agenda will be finding a resolution to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has seen tensions between the two sides explode over recent months. In order to ensure there is no hard border, Northern Ireland effectively remains part of the European Union’s single market for goods, with trade checks on some goods crossing from Great Britain.
Lord Frost wants to completely overhaul the Protocol to scrap any customs controls ordered by the EU, but Brussels has so far strongly refuted any possibility of renegotiation.
That has left both sides in a brutal stalemate but Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, has urged the UK to stand strong, with Britain possibly engaging in a “game of chicken” with the EU that might force Brussels’ hand.
He told Express.co.uk: “If the UK really prioritises a total regulatory autonomy over everything else in regards to the Northern Ireland Protocol, and if they are willing to pay any price to maintain that, then there is no reason for them to give in.
“It would make life easier to find a solution for the Protocol and make the process smoother in Northern Ireland.
“Both sides could be engaged in a game of chicken where they are trying to scare each other into making concessions.
“For the UK, if you don’t have the Protocol, it will cause serious trade issues for Northern Ireland.
“For the EU, if the Protocol isn’t working, they face a really difficult decision about whether or not start putting a border between the north and south of Ireland.”
Mr Menon admitted the EU currently holds the trump card in the Protocol row as they could make trade moves that could result in damage inflicted on the UK economy.
But he warned Britain may have a trick up its sleeve yet, although the political expert conceded it would be a “very tricky thing to do”.
The UK in a Changing Europe director added: “If you’re looking at the economics, the EU has the advantage as they can make access to the market even harder, which would have an even bigger impact on the UK economy.
“If the UK really wants to play chicken, it can tell the EU to put a border in Ireland and see how that works.
“It would be a very tricky thing to do and would put the EU directly in the firing line for putting that border into the middle of the island of Ireland.
“Either that, or the EU starts implementing checks between the Republic and the rest of its market, which would go down like a bucket of cold sick in Dublin.”
Earlier today, the EU once again rejected Britain’s demands to renegotiate the Protocol, insisting the two sides must resolve the problems on trade around the mechanism they had already agreed on.
European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic is visiting Northern Ireland on Thursday, and remains “absolutely convinced” viable solutions to the issues can be found.
He told a news conference: “Let’s focus on the concrete problem. Let’s not try to renegotiate the protocol.