It's OUT! My latest #Brexit Briefing for @FinancialTimes - examining @BorisJohnson
"buy now, pay later" Northern Ireland Protocol, why the EU-UK trust deficit is killing it, how that can be restored - because it needs to work. /1
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson The danger here is that lingering animus over the opportunistic nature Johnson's Faustian bargain - dividing his Kingdom in order to 'get #Brexit done' and win an 80-seat majority - is clouding judgement on both sides of the Channel /2
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson The facts of the Protocol are no less true for Johnson's constant denial of them - that there would be checks, that there really is a trade border that now prevents plants and pets from travelling freely from Bedford to Ballymena as M.Gove reminds us. But these are other facts/3
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson Firstly, NI remains part of UK, even if it is now has EU customs rules.

Secondly, NI remains politically divided and fragile; the Good Friday Agreement is a constant work in progress.

Thirdly, both the EU and the UK agreed to this unsatisfactory arrangement jointly. /4
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson Fourthly, therefore, they have a joint responsibility to make it work because

Fifthly - and most importantly — there is no alternative to it. /5
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson The last three years established that a technological north-south border isn't happening - technologically OR politically.

And the UK will not agree to the strictures of “no regulatory divergence” that underpinned May's decision to say in the EU single market for goods./6
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson Which leaves everyone - London, Brussels, Dublin and Belfast - stuck with this unsatisfactory arrangement that needs to be made to work in as unobtrusive and politically sensitive way as possible - everyone's grievances to one side, which is stupidly easy to say, I know /7
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson But it does need to *work* - that means the border needs to function properly as @MarosSefcovic has said - or you start to create the conditions for the very same north-south border that we're all trying to avoid here. /8
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson @MarosSefcovic The UK does recognise this need for functionality - even if its behaviour last year by unilaterally threatening to break the terms of the deal - has raised doubts on the EU side about London's real commitment to the deal. /9
@FinancialTimes @BorisJohnson @MarosSefcovic But at the same time, if the EU keeps on treating the GB-NI border like the Dover-Calais border and as a 'test' of UK probity and trustworthiness, there is a risk of a downward spiral that, in the absence of alternatives, leads nowhere good /10
It was interesting listening to NI logistics operators this week talking to @CommonsNIAC about how processes could be simplified and streamlined whilst still giving the EU the data/certainty they need /11…
@CommonsNIAC This is v technical stuff, but it is surely worth exploring more deeply - in the light of the 'unique circumstances' of Northern Ireland how both sides can - to coin a bitter phrase - have their cake and eat it here /12
@CommonsNIAC In his letter @MarosSefcovic says that functionality is a "prerequisite" for further easements and facilitations - but it is important that the EU really means that, and can approach this in a outcomes-based, not legalistic way. /13
@CommonsNIAC @MarosSefcovic The problem - as we all know - is that this deeply unsatisfactory deal really requires trust and good relations on both sides. And the reality is that that is sadly lacking - @michaelgove dinging Brussels for its "integrationist theology" (and EU return fire) all symptomatic /14
@CommonsNIAC @MarosSefcovic @michaelgove On the upside, it seems that @MarosSefcovic and @michaelgove did manage to lower the temperature last night over their London Deliveroo dinner party and seek "workable solutions" /15…
@CommonsNIAC @MarosSefcovic @michaelgove UK officials are pretty guarded in their optimism - this is far from sorted - BUT the willingness of the EU side to engage/listen with NI business is taken as a positive, both in Whitehall but also in NI as @MichaelAodhan tells me in that news report. /16
@CommonsNIAC @MarosSefcovic @michaelgove @MichaelAodhan The danger, talking to folk in Brussels, is that France, Germany are failing to separate out the Protocol form the rest of the deal - and are determined to keep both London (and Dublin) "honest" here, and in the process are deepening a mess they don't really understand/17
@CommonsNIAC @MarosSefcovic @michaelgove @MichaelAodhan Of course, they might "understand" better if @michaelgove @DavidGHFrost @BorisJohnson all did more to settle the relationship that, on many fronts, looks testy - and likelier to get testier as more and more realities of the Canada-style trading start to land /18
@CommonsNIAC @MarosSefcovic @michaelgove @MichaelAodhan @DavidGHFrost @BorisJohnson There needs to be a really collective effort not to make Northern Ireland the casualty of this post-divorce feuding. If the border can bed in, then there are even some upsides - ask the NI shellfish operators, they can send to Europe, no depuration required ;) /19
@CommonsNIAC @MarosSefcovic @michaelgove @MichaelAodhan @DavidGHFrost @BorisJohnson Anyway. On the upside, this week has ended in a better place than it began, and that - in #Brexit world - is surely progress. Fingers crossed it continues.

Good weekend all. ENDS

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More from @pmdfoster

10 Feb
The @MarosSefcovic
letter to @michaelgove - quick breakdown.

It starts with a list of UK non-compliance at NI ports...and says addressing these are a "prerequisite" for any other facilitations /1…
@MarosSefcovic @michaelgove There is an offer of a fix on TRQs issue that saw some steel going from GB into NI attracting 25% tariffs - more deets here /2…
@MarosSefcovic @michaelgove But no offer of 'blanket derogations' on issues around export health certificates and - it seems - no fix at all on 'prepared meats' (can u send a non-frozen sausage from Brum to Belfast) - note line on new supply chain ("source them in NI or ROI in effect") /3
Read 5 tweets
10 Feb
🚨🇬🇧🇪🇺NEW 🇪🇺🇬🇧🚨the NI trader support scheme (TSS) has taken a kicking from users taking to ⁦@CommonsNIAC⁩ ...a day after ⁦@michaelgove⁩ praised it and ⁦@ShankerASingham⁩ to peers /1
@CommonsNIAC @michaelgove @ShankerASingham Back on Jan 6 the TSS (£355m set up to help traders deal with NI Protocol) was criticised to @CommonsNIAC as "simply not good enough" by @Freight_NI Seamus Leheny and others...well a month on, it's got more brutal write-ups /2…
@CommonsNIAC @michaelgove @ShankerASingham @Freight_NI Stephen McAneney, managing director of @Allied_F_S Allied Fleet Services, said there was “no consistency” in the information coming from the service and advice was confusing and conflicting. /3
Read 6 tweets
10 Feb
NEW: 🚨🇬🇧🇪🇺🧪🧑‍🔬⚗️🧪🇪🇺🇬🇧🚨the U.K. chemicals industry calls for common sense re-think of U.K. post-#brexit plan to build copycat EU REACH chemicals database at cost of £1bn - @GeorgeWParker @FinancialTimes scoop. Stay with me. /1
@GeorgeWParker @FinancialTimes So what's all this about? Well, no sleeping at the back there, because chemicals are in everything - from paint to nail polish, cars to contact lenses - they are key part of manufacturing base, with highly mobile pan-EU supply chains. #Brexit is a bugger for them /2
@GeorgeWParker @FinancialTimes The problem is that as part of the 'sovereignty at all costs approach @DavidGHFrost the UK relationship ruled out close links with the EU chemicals agency ECHA in Helsinki which controls the EU REACH database - a store of all the info on all the chemicals on the market /3
Read 15 tweets
8 Feb
NEW: where @michaelgove warns the EU is in danger of putting its “integrationist theology” above the interests of the people of Northern Ireland - looks like tough discussion ahead this week. 1/
Gove will meet @MarosSefcovic in London on Thursday to demand easements to NI Protocol and says “Progress has been made but we are very far from resolving those problems” /2
My colleague @Sam1Fleming gets a testy EU diplomat response: “It would already be a step forward if Britain put as much energy into the Implementation of the NI protocol as it puts into complaining about it.”/3
Read 8 tweets
8 Feb
🚨🇬🇧🇪🇺🐚🦪🦪🐚🦪🐚🇪🇺🇬🇧🚨So...govt has to concede that most mussel, oyster, clam and cockles - bivalve molluscs - can’t now go to EU, “bringing an end to this traditional and valuable trade” - a move U.K. says is “unacceptable”, but admits can’t stop. /1…
It seems as if @DefraGovUK @MPGeorgeEustice has been advised it would be OK...but now EU has advised not. They are trying to fix with Shellfish Association of Great Britain @SAGB /2
@DefraGovUK @MPGeorgeEustice @SAGB The tone of this statement slightly reminds me of that letter that a slightly sheepish @DavidGHFrost wrote to the car makers admitting defeat on asking EU for cross-cumulating rules of origin so Japanese car parts. /3…
Read 4 tweets
6 Feb
🚨🇪🇺🇬🇧🤔🤔🤔🇪🇺🇬🇧🚨NEW: post #brexit immigration rules are shaping up to kill the au pair industry - on which 45,000 working families depend for affordable childcare. Seems mad. Stay with me. /1
First, what is an 'au pair' - sometimes assumed to be childcare for posh folk - but actually its really a childcare solution for doctors, police, nurses, single parents who have jobs that need reliable, affordable, full-time childcare. The can't afford nannies at £2k/pcm /2
So they an 'au pair', which is a kind of cultural exchange. A young person (90%+ from EU/EEA) aged 18-26 comes to live in your house, they get contribution to English lessons, board and lodging and £100/week 'pocket money' in exchange for 25 hours childcare - it works /3
Read 21 tweets

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