EU drawing up new Brexit punishment plans – Frost to face-off with Sefcovic in DAYS

Brexit: Micheál Martin ‘quite scared’ says reporter

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According to Mujtaba Rahman, the EU will attempt to put together a package of “retaliatory measures” against the UK in order to show “escalation dominance” in the ongoing Brexit row over the Northern Ireland protocol. The head of Eurasia Group’s Europe practice claimed the measures could allow the EU to suspend access to its fishing waters and apply tariffs on fish products.

It would also allow the Brussels bloc to apply tariffs before the decision of an arbitration panel.

Mr Rahman argued the bloc’s approach to the talks has shifted in a bid to prevent Boris Johnson and his team to trigger Article 16 of the protocol.

He wrote: “To dissuade UKG from triggering Article 16, EU is drawing up a package of short/medium term retaliatory measures which could be put to David Frost by Maros Sefcovic on Friday.

“As one senior official says: ‘In order to avoid escalation, you have to demonstrate escalation dominance.’

“Important: while EU’s package will likely include medium-term plans to suspend the TCA, it could also include options for short-term tariff retaliation BEFORE arbitration proceedings.

“(The assumption to date has been tariffs would require conclusion of infringement procedure or arbitration panel).”

He added “there will be lots of nuances and legal complexities” but the EU believes Articles 506 and 773 of the Brexit deal would be “swifter” and “more immediate”.

Mr Rahman explained: “While 506 primarily relates to fish, it can be used by EU to threaten escalation.

“And it is certainly feasible given on-going France-UK scrap over fish.

“Importantly, it would enable EU to suspend access to its waters and preferential tariff on fish products as well as the full or partial suspension of preferential tariffs on ALL OTHER goods under TCA’s Article 21.

According to Mr Mr Rahman “the EU’s strategy has clearly now shifted” in a bid “to dissuade Boris Johnson and David Frost from proceeding with their Article 16 preparations”.

He added: “An initial package of options is likely to be mulled by EU Ambassadors on Wednesday. Depending upon discussion, Sefcovic may even raise measures with Frost on Friday.

“Originally convinced more flex from EU would work, he’s now advocating a much tougher approach, with full backing of Ursula von der Leyen.

“There will be lots of howls from the UK Government Brexity types that France and the EU are linking fish to peace/stability in Northern Ireland etc.

“But the UK Government has itself also attempted to link a deal over fish with EU flexibility over ECJ.

“The point is, per first quote, context has changed. Now it’s about leverage.”

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Negotiations between London and Brussels over the protocol remain deadlocked and there is mounting speculation that the UK Government is poised to trigger Article 16 later this month.

Britain has repeatedly warned it will move to unilaterally suspend elements of the protocol if an agreed outcome is not reached.

The oversight role of the European Court of Justice in policing the operation of the protocol remains a key sticking point in the talks to resolve issues with its operation.

Irish premier Micheal Martin has said it is not inevitable that the UK Government will trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Martin said it would be “reckless and irresponsible” to trigger Article 16, but refused to discuss the possibility of a trade war between the UK and the EU.

“I think we should be aware of self-fulfilling prophecies as well,” he said when asked if a trade war is looming.

“Nothing, as I say, is certain in that regard, because we’ve been here before and negotiations are still under way.”

He added: “There’s still engagement between the European Union and the UK.

“As I said in the Dail last week, and I stand over my comments, I think it would be reckless and irresponsible to trigger Article 16.

“I believe that all parties need to take on board the fundamental importance of the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, and the relationship between the Irish Government and the British Government, in terms of what has happened over the last 30 years.”

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