President Biden is expected to give Boris Johnson a dressing down at the G7 summit in Cornwall this week over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the UK government is currently attempting to scale back.
In a threat reminiscent of Barack Obama’s aggressive warning that Britain risked being put at the “back of the queue” for a trade deal in the event of Brexit, an intervention that backfired spectacularly, Biden will tell the British prime minister an FTA is on the line if differences are not resolved with the EU. So far, there is no indication it will be taken off the table entirely.
Biden is known to see the hated mechanism that has stuck a customs border in the Irish Sea, separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, as vital to peace.
The Times quotes a high-up Biden official who warns: “The administration is now convinced that the Protocol has to be made to work and is integral to the peace process.”
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that Lord Frost has had enough with the EU’s “legal puritanism” driving the agenda.
The EU is utterly obsessed with locking Northern Ireland’s economy out of Britain’s internal market, which has led to prohibitive checks and paperwork for exporters from the mainland. Some are now forgoing business with the province altogether.
The Protocol’s severity has held up trade, leaving supermarket shelves empty. Some customs officials have received death threats, making a mockery of EU claims the Protocol would preserve peace.
Frost worries the EU is blind to the unrest the mechanism is feeding. “We are seeing political turbulence, with the loss of First Minister Arlene Foster, the change of the UUP leadership and street protests. And there are real world impacts on lives and livelihoods,” said the minister for the Cabinet Office who leads Britain’s negotiations with the bloc.
Last week Frost warned the Protocol was “unsustainable”. His comments appear to have only further enraged Eurocrats who despise the former diplomat for taking what they see as a hard-line approach during last year’s post-Brexit trade talks.
Wallowing in self-pity, one EU diplomat said he lamented the departure of Michael Gove, the previous holder of the post. “Gove’s professional, less emotional approach was the more logical one from where we sit,” the official told the Telegraph.
Brussels is dishing out threats of its own too. “If we don’t get that clear indication [that Britain is taking the Protocol seriously] in the coming weeks then we’re looking at imposing retaliatory trade tariffs,” a source told the Times. For months, the EU has been threatening to punish Britain’s financial services industry, a move understood to be heavily favoured by President Macron.
However, Biden is also set to scold the EU for being too “bureaucratic”, which suggests there is a decent amount of common ground with Frost.
But which party will America’s president be kinder to? Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken spent his childhood in France, speaks the language and has been described as a “friend” of the nation. And the rest of the new administration is known to be hostile to Britain and pro-EU.
This mediation is only going one way.