Tense Franco-British relations cast a pall over Northern Ireland Protocol meeting

Fri 29 Oct 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Brexit minister Lord Frost is meeting his EU opposite number Maros Sefcovic today to assess the progress of negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The meeting takes place with a backdrop of worsening relations between France and Britain over disputed fishing rights.

French ambassador Catherine Colonna has been summoned by foreign secretary Liz Truss to explain “unjustified threats” and the seizure of a British vessel in Le Havre, the BBC reports.

Earlier today (29 October), the UK government said it could respond if France goes ahead with threats to stop UK boats landing in six of its ports if the licence row is not resolved by Tuesday (2 November).

French action would start with heightened customs and health checks on goods, the Guardian reports.

Confrontation

Lord Frost has also waded in after chairing a ministerial meeting yesterday to discuss the impounding of the vessel and the threat from France of increased checks at the border and a hike to energy tariffs on Jersey, Politico reports.

A statement from Lord Frost said France’s actions breached the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and international law.

“We regret the confrontational language that has been consistently used by the French government on this issue, which makes this situation no easier to resolve,” he added.

The other big issue to thrash out will be the role the European Court of Justice, where the UK wants the ECJ side-lined, while the EU sees it as the court of arbitration for governance of the protocol.

Papal message

Meanwhile, the Pope has emerged as a voice urging “shared responsibility” and “solidarity” ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow next week, reports the Guardian.

In a specially recorded piece for the Radio 4 Today programme Thought for Today slot, the Pontiff urged the world to reject “isolationism, protectionism and exploitation” and take “radical decisions” at next week’s summit.

He said: “Climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic have exposed our deep vulnerability and raised numerous doubts and concerns about our economic systems and the way we organise our societies.”

He added: “These crises present us with the need to take decisions, radical decisions that are not always easy. At the same time, moments of difficulty like these also present opportunities, opportunities that we must not waste.”