Dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol may "fizzle out", Irish MEP Sean Kelly tells MNI.
EU and UK relations face a few months of quiet tension as the struggle over the Northern Ireland Protocol heats up, but neither side has appetite for a trade war, according to European Parliament member Sean Kelly who represents a constituency in the Republic of Ireland.
“No-one wants a trade war, particularly with the UK,” Kelly, MEP for Ireland South and Vice Chair of the EU Delegation to the EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly, told MNI.
“We still have an awful lot of common areas where we continue working together, in defence, energy and interconnectors. There is no sense in having a trade war. Both sides see that and should be able to work through that.”
DUP NO BAR
Kelly’s reading of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s gameplan is that he would be satisfied with changes to the Protocol that he could present as a victory. He doubts the resistance of the Democratic Unionist Party to restoring power-sharing in the Northern Ireland Assembly will stand in the way of an EU-UK compromise over the Protocol.
“He (Johnson) has a (House of Commons) majority without them. This is just a distraction from other domestic issues,” Kelly says. “There is no real solving the protocol for the DUP. They just want to get rid of it and you can’t have a situation where the minority dictate to the majority.”
Kelly maintains that the “vast majority” of his contacts with business and farming organisations in Northern Ireland just want the Protocol amended to make it more flexible. “They can see that it’s the only place in the world that has access to a market of 500 million people, even though it’s officially outside the Single Market,” he adds.
Despite the European Commission’s announcement on Wednesday that it would relaunch an infringement procedure against London in response to draft UK legislation designed to override significant parts of the Protocol, Kelly believes that the dispute could well “fizzle out,” given past UK form in similar disputes.
“There is a long way to go before that (a trade war) happens. They will come up with some kind of solution, which they will dress up as a victory,” he says.
The EU will stick to its current “twin-track approach”, Kelly says, of “the legal route and extending the hand of diplomacy.”