Sunday, January 16

Brussels lives as if the British have never been partners in the EU


Correspondent in Brussels

Updated:

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If you ask national diplomats representing member countries in Brussels or any senior European official about Brexit, they all agree on the same thing: the sentimental factor of the British absence immediately vanished after their formal disconnection and no one misses them anymore. The European Union turned the page with unexpected speed and the institutions work practically as if they had never been members. It does not mean that they rejoice, because Brexit was not a desired outcome, but no one has shed a tear to regret this divorce even knowing that it did not suit anyone.

In reality, Brexit is no longer even a topic of conversation in Brussels.

In Ireland, perhaps the most directly affected country, they regret that their island neighbors continue to brood on the matter and that, in particular, Conservative Party politicians insist on using it to reinforce cohesion among their ranks when Prime Minister Boris Johnson has problems in internal politics. Besides the fact that the European Court of Justice of Luxembourg continues to play a role in solving bilateral problems, which constitutes a line that the EU cannot cross, the Irish Protocol is right now the harshest aspect of relations between London and Brussels alongside that of fisheries – vital for France – and that of Gibraltar, which mainly affects Spain.

Frost’s resignation

It is considered that the resignation of David Frost as in charge of the (bad) relations with the EU may mean a change of tone and that in some way that the position has been assumed by the person in charge of Foreign portfolio, Liz Truss, to participate in all the bilateral committees that supervise compliance with the withdrawal agreement and the commercial and cooperation agreement that governs the current relations between the two banks of the Canal. On the part of the Commission, the Vice President Maros Sefcovic, the person in charge of managing relations with the United Kingdom, has closed the year with an interview in which he warns that the continuous British threats to invoke Article 16 of the Protocol to stop applying the trade rules for Northern Ireland are “enormously disruptive ‘And if carried out they would have’ serious consequences’ for the Northern Ireland economy, endanger peace in the region and constitute a ‘huge setback’ for EU-UK relations.

The Gibraltar issue it is on its way to becoming another inevitable sticking point if the British insist on mixing pragmatic realism with nationalist positions. Theoretically, the Commission should have already reached an agreement with London before the end of the year, but Truss insists on raising the question of the sovereignty of the colony, although it is something that is not in question. The proposal you have on the table includes that they be agents of the European agency Frontex those who control the entrance of people and goods in Gibraltar – both by air and by sea – in exchange for Gibraltarians enjoying the benefits of being part of the Schengen area and thus eliminating border controls at the Gate. The current situation is completely irregular, because it allows any European country to enter through Gibraltar without police control. Spain is willing to keep it temporarily, but not indefinitely.

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