Why would anyone trust Brexit Britain again?

(CNN) – Barely seven months after singing his praises, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to rewrite the Brexit deal he signed with the European Union.

It’s a risky move that will undermine Britain’s credibility as a trustworthy trading partner just as the UK government seeks to forge economic alliances far beyond Europe to justify its sales pitch. “Global Britain” for Brexit, experts say.

EU officials have already rejected the UK’s call for renegotiation, which trade experts say amounts to a brazen attempt to pressure the European Union into accepting the demands it has made. it has already rejected in several rounds of talks.

Other countries watching the drama unfold with caution when it comes to dealing with the UK, according to L. Alan Winters of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex in England .

“It certainly raises questions about the reliability of this government,” he told CNN Business. “I don’t think this will lead to a complete halt in negotiations between the UK and other countries, but I think it will make things a little more difficult,” he added.

To be clear, the wayward behavior of the UK government is a bad aspect, but it will not necessarily be fatal to future trade alliances. However, it could weaken its negotiating position.

“The UK is a substantial economy” and is an “attractive trading partner in many ways,” said Simon Usherwood, professor of politics and international studies at the Open University in England.

Potential partners, such as New Zealand and other countries in the Pacific, might simply insist on more robust ways to settle the differences in case the UK tries to reverse a deal, he said. at CNN Business.

“If you wanted a trade deal with the UK, this is probably the best time to get one on your own terms,” ​​Usherwood added, noting the very accommodating deal the UK government has given Australia. . “The UK is in a tough spot. It has to show that leaving the EU was a worthwhile endeavor.”

Chaos in Northern Ireland

For now at least, the UK government’s approach will further strain relations with the European Union, which remains by far the country’s largest trading partner.

At the heart of the problem is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was included in the Brexit deal to avoid the return of a physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which is a member of the European Union. .

Border controls and guard posts disappeared following the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 which brought peace to the island of Ireland after 30 years of violent conflict between Catholic nationalists, who want a country unified, and faithful Protestants in the United Kingdom.

The European Union feared that a physical barrier would once again become a source of tension, and it would not agree to control the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to protect the integrity of the EU market. Johnson, who helped lead the Brexit campaign, instead agreed that Northern Ireland would remain subject to EU market rules and control goods moving from the UK to Northern Ireland.

But these new controls on goods moving between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland have created chaos, disrupting supply chains, increasing costs for businesses and reducing the availability of certain products in supermarkets across Canada. North Ireland. According to the UK government, at least 200 UK companies have stopped serving the country due to post-Brexit bureaucracy.

On Thursday, the British Generic Manufacturers Association, a trade body for manufacturers of generic drugs, said onerous new trade rules have forced its companies to put more than 2,000 withdrawal drugs on notice from Northern Ireland.

The British government now wants “a significant change” to the protocol, which, he admits in an article published this week, is the cause of “most of the current friction” with the European Union. He is effectively trying to renegotiate an agreement he accepted seven months ago, presenting proposals that he knows the European Union cannot accept.

The document “reads like a client’s submission to his divorce lawyer – full of blame, false sadness and passive aggression,” wrote Winters and Michael Gasiorek of the UK Trade Policy Observatory in a blog Thursday.

“This reflects a weakness and can only weaken the international position of the government,” they added.

The UK has a lot at stake. Brexit has increased costs for UK exporters, penalizing trade with their most important market and hurting long-term economic growth. He needs new trade deals to offset some of the damage caused by Brexit.

But if it does not respect the treaties it has already signed, the British government could have more difficulty in reaching agreements on favorable terms with other countries, including the United States.

The Threat to “World Britain”

“We will not accept a renegotiation of the protocol,” European Commission Vice-President MaroÅ¡ Å efčovič said in a statement on Wednesday. “Compliance with international legal obligations is of paramount importance,” he added.

This sentiment is shared by Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand – a country with which Britain is currently engaged in trade negotiations and which has the power to prevent it from joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement of Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The CPTPP is an 11-country free trade pact that includes Mexico, Australia, Canada and Singapore. While it will not compensate for the economic losses resulting from Brexit, it has nonetheless been described by UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss as a ‘glittering post-Brexit prize’.

In a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs earlier this month, Ardern said New Zealand had agreed to negotiations that would pave the way for the UK to join the partnership.

“The CPTPP is our highest quality agreement,” she added. “Those who aspire to join will need to be able to meet its high standards. “

Some trade experts interpreted the comment as directed against Britain. “If it wasn’t for the UK it was a complete waste of time,” Winters told CNN Business.

Even sharper warnings have come from other quarters. For any British government, a trade deal with the United States would be by far the biggest economic victory for a post-Brexit Britain.

It always seemed like a long time, given that neither former President Donald Trump nor current President Joe Biden had much of an appetite to sign major international treaties, amid a broader abandonment of liberalization of countries. trades.

But recent actions by the British government are not helping its cause. In a statement this week, US Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle chided the UK government’s approach to Northern Ireland and underscored “strong bipartisan” support for the Good Friday deal.

“The British government negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol, accepted it and its parliament voted on it. Yet almost immediately after it entered into force, the British government attempted to shirk its responsibilities under the protocol, ”he said.

“Their latest statement and the proposed changes only continue this trend and only serve to further destabilize Northern Ireland,” he added.

Although Biden has made it clear that he is primarily focusing on domestic issues, he has also repeatedly warned Britain against making the Good Friday deal a “victim of Brexit.”

“Biden is particularly interested in Northern Ireland and its stability, and sees the UK as the antagonist of this discussion,” said Sam Lowe, senior researcher at the Center for European Reform.

“The ongoing disputes with the EU over Northern Ireland and threats to reverse commitments create a problem with the US, but I am not convinced that this creates huge problems with other countries, ”he added.

David Henig, UK director of the European Center for International Political Economy, said other countries may view the Northern Ireland feud as a unique case.

“Other countries will no doubt be aware that the UK is backing down [its agreements with the European Union], but each negotiation is distinct, ”said Henig. “It won’t be seen as a good thing, but I’m not sure they won’t separate it from their own discussions. Northern Ireland is clearly a special case. “

Grace periods for checks on certain goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland due to expire at the end of September, including animal products such as chilled meats, further political feuds between the UK and the European Union are coming.

“I can pretty easily see this continue for quite a while with no change,” said Henig.

“The state of uncertainty could become the status quo,” Lowe added.

Northern Ireland will pay the price for this sad situation. But Johnson’s dream of a “world Britain” will also suffer the consequences.

This story first appeared on CNN.com, “Why would anyone trust Brexit Britain again?

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