The European Union (EU) has discontinued plans to approve Johnson’s Brexit deal after Brussels accused the UK of violating the agreement.
The trade deal between the UK and EU has been in provisional force for two months but needs to pass a vote in the European parliament to become permanent.
Leaders of the legislature’s political groups intended to agree a date for the final vote at a meeting on Thursday, March 4, 2021, but instead agreed to hold off after the latest move by the UK, according to The Independent.
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, Johnson’s government said it would unilaterally change parts of the agreement to better suit UK businesses in Northern Ireland.
“The conference of presidents this morning decided not to agree a date to ratify the TCA [Trade and Cooperation Agreement], pending developments yesterday," The Independent said an EU source told it on March 4, 2021.
“The European parliament leaders want to see where this is going.”
Johnson’s official spokesperson said he was not aware of the Conference of Presidents’ decision, but added: “We want the EU to ratify the TCA as soon as possible.
“We have made clear we will allow for extension to the end of April, but we expect the EU to ratify the deal by that deadline.”
According to The Independent, the European Commission, the bloc's executive, on Wednesday evening, March 3, 2021, pledged legal action after UK ministers said they would extend a ‘grace period’ designed to allow UK supermarkets and suppliers time to adapt to new trade barriers across the Irish Sea.
Maros Sefcovic, vice president of the commission, said that would be a “violation” of the protocol agreed with the UK.
He also warned it would be the “second time that the UK government is set to breach international law”, following a similar row last year.
In a statement the commission said the EU had “strong concerns over the UK’s unilateral action, as this amounts to a violation of the relevant substantive provisions of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and the good faith obligation under the withdrawal agreement.”
“This is the second time that the UK government is set to breach international law.
“This also constitutes a clear departure from the constructive approach that has prevailed up until now, thereby undermining … the mutual trust necessary for solution-oriented cooperation.”
The grace period – a temporary relaxation of checks – had been due to expire at the end of this month.
At that point supermarkets in Northern Ireland, which have struggled with supply problems since the government’s Brexit deal came into force on January 1, 2021, had expected to see their woes worsen.
Like Brussels, the Irish government has also criticised the UK government’s plans, branding them “deeply unhelpful”.
Here in the Virgin Islands, the United Kingdom has been criticised of not living up to its partnership with the Virgin Islands but instead seeks to dictate to it.
The ‘Mother Country’ came under heavy criticism when following the destructive hurricanes of 2017, it was only willing to offer the Virgin Islands a ‘loan guarantee’ while refusing to address concerns with the Protocol for Effective Financial Management which would allow the VI to borrow substantially for its recovery without violating the protocols.
And when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the VI, the UK when approached for financial help, told the VI Government to use its own monies first.
It was; however, quick to support a controversial Commission of Inquiry into governance called by ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who was accused of trying to bully the elected VI government and causing a strain between the government and the people.
The Virgin Islands is supposed to be in a partnership with the United Kingdom (UK); however, Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), late last year said the relationship with the UK can hardly be defined as a partnership, since the UK wants to have all the say.
In fact, he likened the United Kingdom to a bully.
“If that was really what it was, a partnership, I wouldn’t mind it, but I don’t like the idea of being bullied,” Dr Wheatley stated during the Second Sitting of the Third Session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) on December 14, 2020.
The Deputy Premier pointed out that the UK continues to stifle the advancement and sustainability of the VI economy, instead of helping to advance it as a true partner should do.
He gave examples such as the holding up of the cannabis legislation, where the VI has already lost major investors, and the pressure on the territory to have public registers of beneficial ownership in financial services, knowing very well that this could be detrimental to the industry in the VI.
Dr Wheatley explained that the Virgin Islands has always been compliant with international regulations regarding financial services; however, the UK continues to harass the OTs to have public registers of beneficial ownership. This is even while the VI has introduced its own search mechanism known as the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (BOSS), which has proven to be efficient.
“They changed the goal post on you, we do whatever is required of us,” Dr Wheatley had stated.
So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.