EU won’t pull trigger on trade war over Britain ripping up Protocol … yet

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The EU will not carry out its threat of a trade war when the Government brings forward its bill to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol on Monday.

© LEON NEAL Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up after signing the Brexit trade deal in December 2020 – LEON NEAL

But anyone thinking that the UK’s strong support for Ukraine has earned it softer treatment from the EU is deluded.

There was optimism around Europe that “Britain was back” as it reengaged diplomatically to urge a tough line on Moscow.

Global Britain was taking on an assertive, positive role in Europe for the first time since Brexit.

Now the Government will be accused of undermining the unity of the West in the face of Putin’s aggression by reneging on the Protocol.

Paris and Berlin are united in their belief that Britain breaking international law, as the EU sees the bill, cannot be rewarded with fresh concessions.

It is true that the Baltic nations and Poland appreciate Boris Johnson’s leadership in the pushback against Putin.

Gratitude for British weapons won’t convince Warsaw or Tallinn to defy the likes of Emmanuel Macron, despite their frustration with his approach to Moscow.

No EU member state will agree to sell out Ireland

And no EU member state will countenance selling out Ireland, which feels the bill puts its place in the Single Market at risk.

The Protocol dispute will be kept entirely separate to cooperation and coordination with the UK on Ukraine.

EU capitals have outsourced the Protocol negotiations to the European Commission.

They are not minded to give their negotiator a fresh mandate as the UK has demanded.

Sick and tired of the endless Brexit psychodrama, they see the bill as yet another example of the Conservative Party negotiating with itself rather than with Brussels.

Brussels will hope the bill is yet another manifestation of the “madman” or “King Kong” strategy – the belief that the only way to get the EU to negotiate or make concessions is through threats.

But there is anxiety that Boris Johnson needs to shore up his support among hardline Brexiteers after the damaging vote of confidence in his leadership.

Dublin is convinced that the European Research Group (ERG) of MPs is now calling the shots on a bill that is opposed across Europe and by most political parties in Northern Ireland.

The bill has divided the Tory party and apart from the ERG and the DUP, has little support outside of it.

There is genuine anger in Europe that Britain is looking to tear up a treaty that only came into force in 2021. Trust has been deeply damaged by the threat of unilateral action.

The European Commission has already drawn up a trade tariff hit list of iconic British products made in “Red Wall” constituencies, and those represented by vocal Brexiteers.

But it knows the bill faces potential rebellions against a weakened Prime Minister in the Commons.

The legislation is also likely to get a hostile reception in the Lords, which could further delay it.

Brussels won’t pull the trigger on a trade war on Monday, but, if the bill is made law, it will respond regardless of the war in Ukraine.

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