PM: Next Tory leader must 'embrace Brexit' says Rees-Mogg
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Relations between London and Brussels have become increasingly “gridlocked” in recent months, reports suggest. Tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol appear to have helped deepen a stand-off attitude among negotiators on both sides of the table – or, it turns out, stopped them from getting to the table in the first place.
The Partnership Council has not gathered since June 2021, according to the Financial Times.
This body is the primary overseer of trade relations between the UK and the EU.
The paper added that there are no dates in the diary for a new meeting any time soon.
Boris Johnson’s resignation and the Tory leadership election this has triggered could further push back the likely date of the next gathering.
The FT reported: “With the British Government now in caretaker mode following the forced resignation of Boris Johnson, UK officials said the council was not expected to meet until November or December, well after the date that the ruling Conservative Party is expected to elect a new leader.”
Downing Street condensed that a meeting was “not overdue or delayed”.
But one senior EU diplomat cast doubt on the suggestion, insisting a meeting had not taken place because one had not been needed.
They said: “There’s nothing to talk about.
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“The clue is in the name ‘partnership’ – that’s very difficult to see when one side is threatening to tear up part of the [EU-UK Withdrawal] Agreement.”
The official was referring to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Johnson’s Government had set out legislation to tear up the post-Brexit deal, complaining in particular about its forcing of checks on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland (that is, from one part of the UK to another).
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But Liz Truss stressed the Government’s “preference” remained the attainment of a negotiated settlement.
The plans are, however, now on hold given the coming change of leadership within the Government.
Relations between the UK and the EU could, as such, vary widely depending on who is next to occupy No10.
Officials from various EU member states told the FT they had not discussed the long delay between meetings.
One diplomat said: “We are always open for dialogue.
“But it is up to the European Commission when they decide a meeting would be fruitful.”
David Henig, UK Director at the European Centre For International Political Economy, commented in a post on Twitter: “TCA Partnership Council was never likely to be an important body. Free Trade Agreement committees are not, usually.
“As and when the UK and EU want a better relationship, I’d expect it to involve establishing a new political structure.”
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