The complex agreement that, in the context of Brexit, seeks to keep the two parts of Ireland without a tangible border is suffering serious turbulence. The immediate cause is an unfortunate mistake by the European Commission.
In full tension due to the supply problems of the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca , last Friday, the president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, approved a regulation restricting the export of vaccineswhich activated, without consulting with Belfast, London or Dublin, the safeguard clause of the Protocol to impose border controls between the two parts of Ireland.
The immediate reaction of the Irish Government led Von der Leyen to amend the regulations within hours and the unfortunate incident was resolved on Friday. The mistake is so glaring that, had it occurred in a body subjected to greater pressure and political scrutiny, it would probably have led to resignations or dismissals.
Following this episode, in response to certain threats of violence, the British Government has suspended port controls(on food and animal products) to be carried out in the trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the solution found to avoid the hard border between Ulster and the Republic.
Furthermore, London is now seeking to take advantage of the situation to blame the EU for the uncomfortable reality of a Brexit that the Northern Irish have begun to uncover and force a renegotiation of the pact. Johnson says Von der Leyen’s mistake has triggered tension in Northern Ireland.
And it threatens again to legislate to suspend the Protocol – as it did last summer – if Brussels does not accept to relax the border controls that since January 1 (end of the transitional period of Brexit) separate from the commercial point of view the Northern Irishmen from the rest of the British.
Last summer’s attempt, a move by Johnson for bargaining advantages, met with strong pushback from the EU. In this circumstance, the Twenty-Seven will have to respond to reasonable requests to fix a specific problem, but the system cannot be changed either because of the threats on the ground or because of Johnson’s pulse.
The Commission made a mistake. He quickly rectified. It can be discussed whether an assumption of responsibilities is necessary. But this cannot serve as an excuse for a blackmail that tries to hide the reality of Brexit from the Northern Irish and the rest of the British for a few more months.