Surprisingly, the British government announced this week that it would unilaterally change the Brexit treaty passed in January. It concerns the suspension of customs regulations in the trade in goods for the province of Northern Ireland and of requirements on state aid for British companies.
The EU sees this as a clear violation of the Brexit agreement. Commission Vice-President Sefcovic therefore traveled to London on Thursday to request clarifications. The EU did not accept the British argument that the aim of the change plans was to protect the Good Friday Agreement for ending the Northern Ireland conflict, the Commission said after the meeting between Sefcovic and Gove. “Rather, she is of the opinion that she is doing the opposite.”
EU diplomatic circles reported that Gove had merely “thrashed phrases” at the meeting. In EU circles the suspicion has been raised that Johnson is threatening to violate the divorce treaty in order to enforce better terms in the trade agreements with the EU. “If you try that, it will fail,” it said.
In fact, the eighth round of negotiations on the trade pact ended on Thursday without rapprochement. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier reported “significant differences” on issues that are of vital importance to the EU. The EU has shown itself to be flexible on the UK’s red lines, but the reverse has not happened. “In order to enter into a future partnership, mutual trust and confidence is necessary and will be in the future,” said Barnier, clearly referring to the announced breach of the Brexit agreement by London.