Ex-Irish PM Leo Varadkar: Dublin Plans For Potential Trade War Between EU and Britain
"I don’t think anybody wants to see the European Union suspending the trade and cooperation agreement with Britain. But if Britain were to act in such a way that it resigned from the protocol and the withdrawal agreement, I think the European Union would have no option other than to introduce what we call rebalancing measures to respond," the former Taoiseach said.
Brexit and the Troubles
The protocol's main aim was to preserve the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, a peace treaty, which ended a decades-old violent sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. Dubbed the Troubles, it began over the status of Northern Ireland – Irish nationalists and Republicans opposed an alliance with the United Kingdom and wanted Belfast to join the Republic of Ireland, while Unionists and loyalists wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK.
To preserve this status quo after Brexit, the UK and Brussels have agreed that Northern Ireland would remain in the European Union’s single market and that the checks on goods going to the bloc from Britain and vice versa should be conducted at the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK (England, Scotland Wales).
However, the agreement appears not to be worth the paper it was written on as there have been major supply disruptions because of checks at the Irish border ever since Britain officially left the European Union. This has caused anger in Northern Ireland and led to tensions with Unionists strongly opposing the NIP which they say threatens Belfast's membership in the UK.
'We Are Prepared For War'
Brussels and the UK agreed a six-month grace period that temporarily suspends the rules of the NIP that was recently prolonged. During that time, both sides intended to find a long-term solution to the conundrum, but failed in their resolve.
Britain has been asking the bloc to renegotiate the NIP, something Brussels has vehemently refused to do, accusing the UK of reneging on its promises.
"EU capitals such as Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Paris would expect a robust response [to Britain using Article 16]. We are ready for peace but prepared for war," a senior EU diplomat told newspaper, the Daily Telegraph.