BRUSSELS (AP) — It was late last Christmas Eve when the European Union and Britain finally clinched a Brexit trade deal after years of wrangling, threats and missed deadlines to seal their divorce.
There was hope that now-separated Britain and the 27-nation bloc would sail their relationship toward calmer waters.
With Christmas closing in again one thing is clear — it wasn’t to be.
Britain’s Brexit minister on Tuesday accused the EU of wishing failure on its former member and of badmouthing the UK as a country that can’t be trusted. David Frost said during a speech in Lisbon that the EU “doesn’t always look like it wants us to succeed” or “get back to constructive working together.”
He said a fundamental rewrite of the mutually agreed divorce deal was the only way to fix the exes’ “fractious relationship.” And he warned that Britain could push an emergency override button on the deal if it didn’t get its way.
“We constantly face generalized accusations that we can’t be trusted and that we aren’t a reasonable international actor,” Frost added — a response to EU claims that the UK is seeking to renege on the legally binding treaty that it negotiated and signed.
Post-Brexit tensions have crystalized into a worsening fight over Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK to share a land border with an EU country, which is Ireland. Under the most delicate and contentious part of the Brexit deal, Northern Ireland remains inside the EU’s single market for trade in goods, in order to avoid a hard border with EU member Ireland.
That means customs and border checks must be conducted on some goods going to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, despite the fact they are part of the same country. The regulations are intended to prevent goods from Britain entering the EU’s tariff-free single market while keeping an open border on the island of Ireland — a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process.