Just a short post this week, since I already wrote about this in a Twitter thread earlier in the week:
Some thoughts on the UK's approach to the NI Protocol and what that might mean
Short version: UK wants to hold it in unstable situation, to avoid wearing costs of Brexit domestically, but this isn't a long-term strategy
— Simon Usherwood (@Usherwood) October 18, 2021
The thread was an attempt to make sense of what the UK is doing and whether it might work. As you’ll see, I’m not that confident that it will. Conversations with people on both sides this week haven’t changed my mind on that either.
Part of that is the low trust environment that exists. The number and quality of connections that the EU has with the UK are both relatively low, which means there are fewer opportunities for the kind of frank discussions that might find a way through the current impasse.
As a result, the weight of rhetoric (on both sides) increases in the calculation.
To take an obvious example, the unwillingness of the UK to publish its replacement text for the Protocol makes it impossible to work out a more dispassionate understanding of its needs, so we have to fall back on the words of Lord Frost or Boris Johnson, with all the additional complexities that brings.
Even if the Commission proposals last week do leave various points to be precised and elaborated, at least they work more transparently towards a new set of agreements (or implementations of existing agreements, to be more exact).
This shouldn’t be that surprising – I noted in evidence back at the start of the year, for example – but that doesn’t change the situation as we find it.
Rebuilding contacts and conversations is going to have to be a priority if things are to start to improve between the EU and UK, and it’s probably the UK that has to start that.
I’d not hold your breath right now.