Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Labour: Dossier indicates NHS ‘up for sale’ in US trade deal

The U.K.’s Labour Party has obtained unredacted documents detailing talks between the U.S. and U.K. that indicate the National Health Service is on the table in trade talks with Washington, party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Wednesday.

This charge comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during his first debate with Corbyn on November 19 that allegations of secret meetings to put the NHS under review in a U.S. trade deal were an “absolute invention.”

Speaking at a press conference, Corbyn said the 451 pages of documents reveal six rounds of negotiations from July 2017 until just a few months ago. Taken together, this amounts to “evidence” that under Boris Johnson, the NHS “is on the table and will be up for sale,” Corbyn added.

“The election is now a fight for our National Health Service,” declared Corbyn.

The NHS has been a key battleground ahead of the December 12 election, with a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary airing claims that there have been talks between the U.S. and U.K. trade officials on drug pricing. 

Corbyn said the documents expose detail of these discussions, and that they refute the Conservative Party’s denial that U.S. corporations want to force up medicine prices. Those negotiations have advanced even further, said Corbyn, with initial discussions on lengthening patents already completed. 

Reading from the document, Corbyn said it noted: “Everything is included unless something is specifically excluded,” and that the U.S. wants “total market access as the baseline assumption.”

In a tweet just prior to Corbyn’s announcement, Johnson wrote: “Our NHS will not be on the table for any trade negotiations. We’re protecting and strengthening our NHS with more investment and an Australian style, points-based immigration system.”


UK trade experts urge politicians to stick to the facts

Trade policy experts are warning U.K. politicians campaigning in next month’s election that they are promising unattainable trade benefits and setting “arbitrary deadlines’’ for sealing a deal with the European Union after Brexit.

A dozen signatories to a letter published in the Daily Telegraph Wednesday urged leaders to supplant rhetoric with fact-based discussions about Britain’s future outside the EU trading bloc – or risk deals the public won’t support.

The letter says, “engines are being revved towards striking new (free trade agreements) by arbitrary deadlines with little sense of what we actually want to achieve.’’

The bipartisan letter, whose signatories include Alan Winters of the U.K. Trade Observatory and David Tinline, a former senior adviser to the World Trade Organization’s director-general, criticizes politicians on both sides of the Brexit issue.


UK political parties seek business sector support

The main British political parties will today make their pitch to British businesses, as part of the campaign for the December 12 general elections in the United Kingdom.
According to the BBC, both conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson, will speak Monday at the annual conference of the powerful Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Johnson promises to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU) on January 31, should he obtain a parliamentary majority on December 12, and will try to convince British businesses that his party will guarantee them good dividends once Brexit is finalized.

In that sense, he will assure the institution that brings together more than 190,000 British companies that the future Tory government will reduce sector taxes and increase credits, among other benefits.

‘With a Conservative majority government you can be sure we will get Brexit done and leave with the new deal that is already agreed – ending the uncertainty and confusion that has paralysed our economy,’ Mr Johnson is expected to say, as reported by the BBC.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, will present his plans to create 320,000 new apprenticeships in construction, manufacturing and design, and implement the Green Industrial Revolution, with which Labour will use public funds to promote green jobs and combat the climate emergency.

Swinson, on the other hand, will take advantage of the anti-Brexit position of her party to insist before the business community that the best thing for the country is to reverse the EU withdrawal process, and will also criticize the spending plans of her rivals.

General elections are held every five years in the United Kingdom, but this will be the third time since 2015 that the British public is called to the polls to elect the 650 members of the House of Commons.

The inability of the Conservative government to realize Brexit, after 51.9 percent of the electorate voted in favor of leaving the European Union (EU) in the June 2016 referendum, has seen the country increasingly divided, and forced Johnson tocall a snap election, in an attempt to achieve the parliamentary majority he needs to finalize the withdrawal on January 31.

In addition to Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, Scottish nationalists, Greens and the europhobic Brexit Party, funded by populist Nigel Farage, are standing candidates.

British troops may be investigated over alleged war crimes

War crimes allegedly carried out by the British military may for the first time be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Killings of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq have been covered up by the state, a BBC news programme will report on Monday.

The United Kingdom’s ministry of defence denied the allegations.

But children were killed, civilians tortured, and British troops were complicit with evidence reportedly contained in a series of leaked documents sourced from within the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT).

That team, and Operation Northmoor – which investigated war crime allegations in Afghanistan – were shut down by the UK government in 2017 after Phil Shiner, a solicitor who had taken more than 1,000 cases to IHAT, was struck off from practising law amid allegations he paid people in Iraq to find clients.

But some former investigators said Shiner’s actions were used as an excuse to close down the inquiries.

No case investigated by IHAT or Operation Northmoor has led to a prosecution.

The ICC said it has taken the accusations “very seriously”, according to the BBC, whose Panorama: War Crimes Scandal Exposed will be broadcast at 21:00 GMT on Monday evening.

“The ICC said it would independently assess the BBC’s findings and would begin a landmark case if it believed the government was shielding soldiers from prosecution,” the corporation reported on Monday morning.

The ICC previously concluded it was credible that British troops committed war crimes in Iraq related to the mistreatment of detainees.

The year-long investigation claims to have found evidence of murders by a special forces SAS soldier, as well as deaths in custody, beatings, torture and sexual abuse of detainees by members of the Black Watch.

A senior SAS commander was also referred to prosecutors for attempting to pervert the course of justice, the investigation found.

Palpable outrage

When allegations of troop abuses first emerged in the years after the invasion of Iraq, the outrage was palpable. In 2006, video was published of abuse being carried out two years previous – British soldiers grabbing four Iraqi boys off the street and dragging them away for a beating, goaded by the soldier filming.

In the southern city of Basra, the video sparked mass protests with the burning of Union flags. Back home, there were calls for soldiers’ prosecution, but a year later the case was dropped by prosecutors as the statute of limitations expired.

But after similar stories began to emerge in subsequent years, the media outrage shifted to focus on the prosecutions instead of the abuses. Investigations into soldiers’ actions were deemed “witch-hunts” by influential right-wing tabloid newspapers. Former prime minister Theresa May blasted “activist, left-wing human rights lawyers” for causing distress to serving and former military personnel.

When IHAT, set up under a Labour government, was shut down by a Conservative government only 20 cases were taken forward. The other 3,400 on IHAT’s books were shelved indefinitely.


PM Johnson will pledge to get Britain out of Brexit rut

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will promise on Wednesday to get Britain out of its Brexit “rut” if he wins a Dec. 12 election, saying the world is baffled by why the country is so “hesitant about its future.” On a campaign trip to central England, Johnson will reiterate that only he can break the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The election was called to end three years of disagreement over Brexit that has sapped investors’ faith in the stability of the world’s fifth largest economy and damaged Britain’s standing since it voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

“The UK is admired and respected around the world but people are baffled by our debate on Brexit and they cannot understand how this great country can squander so much time and energy on this question and how we can be so hesitant about our future,” Johnson will say, according to his office.

“If we can get a working majority we can get parliament working for you, we can get out of the rut. We can end the ‘groundhoggery’ of Brexit,” he will say, in an apparent reference to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day in which a TV weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over.

Earlier on Wednesday, Johnson was heckled by two onlookers as he inspected relief efforts in a flood-hit district of northern England, several days after the worst of the flooding.

“You took your time, Boris,” one said. The other asked: “Where’ve you been?”.

Johnson was due to speak at an electric vehicle manufacturer. Earlier on Wednesday, Elon Musk, chief executive of US electric vehicle pioneer Tesla, was quoted as saying he had decided to build a new factory in Berlin, not Britain, because Brexit posed too much of a risk.

Johnson, 55, hopes to win a majority to push through a Brexit deal he agreed with EU leaders. The deadline for Britain’s departure is Jan. 31.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party who was also heckled in the street in Scotland. He backs holding a second referendum to determine whether Britain should leave with a different deal he hopes to negotiate, or stay in the EU.

Johnson described that prospect as “an expense of spirit and a waste of shame, more political self-obsession and onanism.” Corbyn said the use of the word onanism – an old-fashioned word for masturbation — was ridiculous and offensive.

Opinion polls put the Conservatives far ahead but analysts caution that Brexit, which has divided both major parties and their voters, could confound conventional calculations.

Underlining the political flux, David Gauke, a former Conservative minister, said a clear win for Johnson’s party would be bad for Britain and that he would run in the election as an independent.

Moving the debate on to the National Health Service, on which it is traditionally strong, Labour said it would boost healthcare spending by 26 billion pounds ($33.27 billion) over the next five years.

Boris Johnson has received a frosty reception in flood-hit areas of northern England after victims of torrential rains lashed out at his slow response in coming to survey the damage.

Johnson paused from campaigning to visit Stainforth in South Yorkshire, where residents were mopping up and military personnel were laying sandbags. Residents suggested he took his time. One woman clutching a wheelbarrow alongside some troops told him: “You’ve not helped us…. I don’t know what you’re here today for.” Johnson told reporters afterward that he understood the anguish of residents. He says that the “shock of seeing your property engulfed by water is huge” Opposition parties have criticised the government’s response to flooding and it is rapidly turning into an election issue.

A former Conservative Party cabinet minister says giving the party a majority in next month’s election would be “disastrous” because it would allow Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take the UK out of the European Union without a deal.

David Gauke said Wednesday he would stand for re-election to the House of Commons as an independent as he seeks a majority that will block a hard Brexit and back a second referendum.


Nigel Farage Warned of Becoming ‘Man Who Threw Away Brexit’ by Creating ‘Hung Parliament’

Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s Brexit Party, has announced he would not take part in the 12 December general election, but warned that his party would fight the Tories in key seats ahead of the snap poll.

Nigel Farage risks becoming the “man who threw away Brexit”, Steve Baker, chairman of the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) has warned, as the Brexit Party leader prepares to unveil his 600 election candidates, reports The Telegraph.

The senor Tory Brexiteer accused Farage of “setting out” to create a “weak and indecisive” hung Parliament if he fields 600 election candidates during December’s parliamentary vote.

The former Brexit minister, who until now remained closely aligned with Farage on Brexit, also lambasted his decision not to stand as an MP, saying it showed he was “not serious about governing the country”.

He also said his fellow Brexiteer was “wrong” to characterise Boris Johnson’s deal as “not Brexit”, adding it was “a path to a great future”.

Baker warned “we will not succeed if Nigel Farage creates a hung parliament by dogmatically pursuing purity”.

Echoing these warnings, Nigel Farage has said the British election is likely to result in a hung parliament and the Brexit Party’s lawmakers could be “kingmakers”.

“It is likely, it is likely that we are going to have a hung parliament next time around so actually if the Brexit Party get a reasonable amount of people in there they could exert great influence,” Farage told ITV.

“Mrs. May was kept in power by 10 DUP MPs.”

Farage said he would hurt the opposition Labour Party “in the most extraordinary way”.

Brexit Party Geared to Fight the Tories

On 3 November, Nigel Farage revealed he would not stand as an MP in the snap election.

I have thought very hard about this: How do I serve the cause of Brexit best? Do I find a seat and try to get myself into parliament or do I serve the cause better traversing the length and breadth of the United Kingdom supporting 600 candidates, and I’ve decided the latter course is the right one,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday.

Farage, who claimed to have “agonised” over the decision, said he intended to focus on supporting his party’s candidates up and down the country.

Previously, the Brexit Party said it considers Johnson’s deal to be a betrayal of the 2016 referendum, with Farage warning Prime Minister Boris Johnson that his candidates would use the election campaign to drive home the realisation that his Brexit deal is a “sell out.”

Farage’s announcement was seen as a potential setback for Johnson, as it risks splitting the vote of Brexit supporters in an election that will pit those who want to leave the European Union against those who want to stay.

There are reportedly concerns that if Nigel Farage fiercely contests hundreds of seats across the country on 12 December it could undermine Johnson’s chances of winning a working majority.

Boris Johnson has reiterated there would be no election alliance with the Brexit Party, saying the only way of securing a Brexit was to back the Tories.

Meanwhile, voting for Farage’s party, the Tories said, could stop Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and bring Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 through “the back door”.

Pollsters: Snap Election a “Tough Call”

The UK Parliament is set to dissolve on 5 November; on 29 October MPs voted 438 to 20 to support Johnson’s proposal to hold an early general election, with the EU granting the UK another Brexit delay until 31 January on the same day.

PM Johnson will seek to win a majority in parliament to break the deadlock over his proposed terms for taking the country out of the EU.

Ahead of the snap vote, pundits and pollsters have been describing this general election as the hardest to call in years.

Three separate surveys were published by various polling companies, each with the Tories out in front, but by different margins.

At the upper end of the scale was one by Opinium, which has the Conservatives with a 16 point lead.


International community hails Geneva talks on Syria

Foreign ministers of several countries welcomed the launch of talks in Geneva on Syria’s Constitutional Committee.

Top diplomats of the U.S., U.K., Germany, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia issued a joint statement late Thursday and saluted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen for their efforts on Syria.

“We support efforts to create a safe and neutral environment that enables Syria to hold free and fair elections, under UN supervision,” the statement said, adding the political solution in the war-weary country should be based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

“We recall our statement in New York on September 26 and continue to call for an immediate and genuine nationwide ceasefire in Idlib,” it said, referring to opposition-controlled northwestern Syria.

Structure of Constitutional Committee

The committee is composed of two different bodies. The large body is made up of members from the opposition, regime and civil society whereas the small body includes 45 people responsible for the creation of the new national charter.

The drafts prepared by these 45 members must be approved by the large body, from which it must acquire a “yes” vote from 75% of its 150 members.

Notably, the committee includes two co-chairman.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, over 5 million civilians have become refugees. Turkey hosts 3.6 million of them — more than any country in the world.


Extinction Rebellion delivers demands on last day of action

Climate change activists turned up in their hundreds for the official closing day of their “autumn rebellion” in London.

Marching from the north bank of the Thames through Westminster on Friday, members of Extinction Rebellion held red-painted hands up high to symbolise, they say, taking responsibility for their actions.

Since protests began on October 7, more than 1,700 people have been arrested in relation to the protests, mostly for breaching conditions imposed by police under public order laws.

With the exception of an incident in the London Tube where activists were dragged off a train by passengers, the demonstrations have been largely peaceful.

On Monday, after seven days of protest that brought some areas of central London to a standstill by targeting government departments, financial and other institutions, police banned the group from protesting in the city altogether.

Rallies have continued regardless, with celebrities and public figures in the UK endorsing the movement – including fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, actress Emma Thompson and the band Radiohead.

Guardian columnist George Monbiot and Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley were among those arrested earlier this week.

‘Caught red-handed’
On Friday, activists marched through the streets of Westminster, where many government departments are based, marking their way to the British Parliament with red washable chalk by printing silhouettes of their hands on roads and buildings. Some of those caught “red-handed” were immediately arrested.

“It’s asking [the government] what have they done, five months since Parliament declared a climate emergency,” Zoe Lafferty, a theatre director and playwright who was arrested during the last round of protests of this scale in April alongside more than 1,100 others.

The protests led to parliament declaring a climate emergency following a non-binding motion tabled by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“It’s not good enough just to do declarations. An emergency is what it says on the tin: an emergency,” said Lafferty.

Protesters delivered their demands to six government departments on their way to Parliament square, while a “people’s speech” was drafted to criticise the amount of attention given to climate change in the Queen’s speech earlier this week.

Pam Bellinger, an organic farmer from Leicester, was among the demonstrators at the Treasury department.

“We demand to see the treasury’s plans for responding to the planetary emergency, to see the risks to society in continuing with the current growth economic model,” she told Al Jazeera.

“We also ask to see the treasury’s assessment of the economic consequences of exceeding the Paris agreement temperature limit,” she explained.

The group wants the government to enact policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025, and set up a Citizen’s Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

The UK government has set itself a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. But the UK Committee on Climate Change warned last week that the country is on course to miss it.

Extinction Rebellion groups have mobilised around the world since the current round of protests began, from Berlin to Rome and Argentina. The group says it has 480 active groups in 72 countries.

“I’ve been campaigning on environmental issues for about 30 years, but since Extinction Rebellion started we’ve had a lot of success over the last 12 months, including the government declaring a climate emergency,” said Rod Thick, a 73-year-old who is part of a growing grandparents group within the movement.

“The next step is to make sure they’re on it. We’ve got 18 months to put things right.”


Johnson plans N Ireland ‘special relationship’ with EU for Brexit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit plan will leave Northern Ireland in a ‘special relationship’ with the European Union until 2025, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Tuesday, insisting he will take the UK out of the EU, whatever happens, at the end of the month.

The Johnson plan would mean Northern Ireland would remain in large parts of the EU single market for at least five years, but that it would leave the customs union along with the rest of the UK, according to the report.

Johnson is due to unveil his final Brexit offer on Wednesday, insisting in his closing speech to the annual conference of his ruling Conservative Party that his plan is a “reasonable compromise” and offers the last chance to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party (DUP) is largely “content” with the proposals, the Guardian newspaper reported separately, adding that the plan was supported by the party’s leader Arlene Foster.

However, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the proposals would not provide the basis for a deal with the EU and were “concerning.”

Speaking to Ireland’s Virgin Media One television station Coveney said: “We haven’t seen anything. … But if the reports we are reading this evening are true, it doesn’t seem like the basis for agreement, that’s for sure.”

Johnson has said Britain will leave the EU on this year’s October 31 deadline, even if he has not failed to secure a new deal.

“My friends, I am afraid that after three-and-a-half years people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools,” Johnson will tell the party conference, according to extracts released by his office. “They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all.

“Let’s get Brexit done on October 31 so in 2020 our country can move on.”

Fears of ‘no-deal’ impact

Brexit, the country’s biggest trade and foreign policy shift in more than 40 years, remains uncertain amid staunch opposition in parliament to a ‘no deal’ Brexit that legislators fear will cause the country untold damage.

New legislation requires the prime minister to request a Brexit delay if he fails to secure an acceptable deal at the EU summit on Oct. 17.

The EU has repeatedly asked Britain to come up with “legal and operational” proposals for the changes Johnson wants to the deal his predecessor, Theresa May, negotiated with the bloc last year.

That deal was also voted down by parliament, including by hardliners in his own party who want a ‘clean break’ with Europe. 

Johnson, who leads a minority government, has insisted he would “in no circumstances” seek to delay Brexit at the summit. 

The plan centres on the so-called backstop in May’s deal, which aimed to keep open the land border between Northern Ireland, which is governed by Britain, and Ireland, which is part of the EU.

May’s proposal would have kept Britain in an effective customs union with the EU, which critics argued would force Britain to abide by the bloc’s rules indefinitely.

Under the plans reported in the Telegraph, Johnson would, in effect, create two potentially new borders — regulatory checks in the Irish Sea, and customs checks on the island of Ireland.


With Five Weeks To Go, Here’s How EU Rates Brexit Deal Chances

It’s endgame time (again) on Brexit. Five weeks before the U.K.’s scheduled departure, it seems to be anyone’s guess whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson will get a revised divorce deal with the European Union, ask for another postponement or defy Parliament and leave without an agreement.

With Britain’s Conservatives holding a party conference this week, there’s bound to be a lot of noise. Here’s a reality check on how the EU sees events unfolding, based on multiple conversations with officials directly involved in the process. All of them spoke on condition they not be identified because the discussions aren’t public.

The Talks

On balance, the EU view is that Johnson wants a deal. While his aggressive tone when he took office in July led some to suspect the opposite, his discussions with other leaders have been serious enough to convince the EU he doesn’t really favor a disorderly departure.
U.K. and EU teams have made little progress in limited talks in Brussels and one European official said it would be a joke to describe them as “negotiations.” The British government has published four so-called non-papers — essentially discussion documents — on arrangements for the Irish border. The EU says they aren’t realistic, don’t set out concrete solutions and look like they’re designed to stall for time.
The EU always accepted that the U.K. government would submit more serious proposals only after the Tories’ annual conference, which ends Wednesday. If that happens quickly, there would be enough time to reach a deal before an EU summit in Brussels on Oct. 17-18.\

The Compromises

  • The EU desperately wants a deal. With Brexit dragging on and the threat of economic pain caused by a no-deal crash-out, the bloc is in the mood to compromise. While it won’t do anything to risk the principles of the single market, it would make more concessions on the contentious Irish border backstop if Johnson were likely to get approval for a deal in the House of Commons. The catch? The EU doubts he can pull it off.
  • Giving the Northern Ireland assembly a say on the backstop is something the EU would consider to help increase democratic legitimacy. The U.K. would need to propose solutions. So far, it hasn’t.
  • Any revised deal would require a completely rewritten political declaration on future ties to reflect the different priorities of Johnson’s government compared to Theresa May’s. The EU is alarmed that Johnson wants to ditch May’s commitments on the level playing field — common standards in areas such as social protection, taxation and state aid subsidies. These would underpin any future trade deal. They would become even more significant if the backstop reverts to covering only Northern Ireland rather than the whole U.K., something the EU would accept. France in particular is keen to uphold the level playing field.
  • The EU’s mood for compromise faded over the past week with increasing concern over the febrile atmosphere in the U.K., Johnson’s heightened rhetoric and the court verdict declaring his suspension of Parliament unlawful. Meetings between Johnson and other world leaders at the UN General Assembly didn’t produce much.
  • That same sense of shock has some governments increasingly toying with the idea of accepting some U.K. demands just to end the agony. Yet there’s no serious pressure on the Irish government, which would have to accept concessions on the border backstop.

The Summit(s)

  • Leaders of the other 27 EU countries always insist they won’t negotiate at a summit, meaning a deal would have to be done in the next 2 1/2 weeks or less. Some officials in the EU are bracing for a car-crash summit with Johnson walking out if he doesn’t get his way.
  • Given the small window, the EU expects another summit at some point during the two weeks between the scheduled one and Oct 31. This would also almost certainly be the case if leaders needed to agree another extension.

The Extension

  • EU officials don’t seriously expect government leaders to block a further Brexit delay if the U.K. asks for it. They might even try to get ahead of Johnson and proactively offer an extension.
  • There’s no guarantee the U.K. would get the three months that Parliament’s legislation tells the prime minister to request. The extension could be shorter — or longer, especially if a U.K. election is in the cards.
  • With Johnson determined not to request an extension but Parliament forcing him to, EU officials have discussed whom they should listen to. It seems certain that the bloc will only recognize an extension request from the prime minister himself or, like the last two times, the U.K. ambassador to the EU in Brussels.

The Technicalities

  • The EU is pretty sure the only way out of the logjam on the Irish border issue is make the backstop apply to Northern Ireland only, rather than the whole U.K. The backstop — which Johnson says he wants scrapped — could be repackaged, renamed or given a new look with an all-Ireland agri-food zone and a chapter on the readiness to use alternative arrangements, such as trusted-trader programs and technology.
  • The U.K. hasn’t indicated backing and hasn’t offered much beyond the willingness to accept an all-Ireland agri-food zone. Even this, the so-called sanitary and phytosanitary zone, or SPS, wouldn’t negate the need for Northern Ireland to remain in the EU’s customs union. That brings the whole issue back to a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
  • The EU would accept an all-Ireland SPS zone but this would only solve about 30% of the border activities. Even then, the EU is confused about what the U.K. is proposing. Would it be a new Ireland-only zone or would Northern Ireland simply be part of the EU’s rules? Would Northern Ireland accept future changes in EU rules and would the U.K. accept European Court of Justice jurisdiction over part of its territory?
  • One problem for the EU is that SPS goods still require customs declarations. Even Northern Ireland animal products that could pass freely over the border because of common agri-food rules would have to undergo customs checks.
  • While the EU is willing to look at alternative customs arrangements, its view is that they aren’t ready yet. Nor does the U.K., according to discussions in Brussels. Britain’s government wants to work on them during the transition period that begins after Brexit day — which the EU won’t accept. It wants the backstop to be “legally operable” immediately.