Brexit trade talks concluded at the end of December, ultimately resulting in a deal, but political tension continued nonetheless. The UK and the EU are once again debating the Northern Ireland protocol as the country struggles to import goods. Fishing also remained a controversial issue after the EU banned imports of shellfish from the UK and France clashed with the Jersey government over access to the waters. In January, a diplomatic row erupted over the status of the EU ambassador to London after Brexit.
EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell challenged Britain’s apparent plans to treat the ambassador as a representative of an international organization rather than granting him full diplomatic privileges.
Mr Borrell sent a letter to Foreign Minister Dominic Raab in November raising the issue.
The EU representative warned Raab that the current arrangement “does not reflect the specific character of the EU, nor does it respond to the future relationship between the EU and the UK. [a non-member]”.
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood condemned the government, saying the UK has engaged in “stupid clashes that will not help bolster security and trade cooperation. We are better than that.”
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also sent a stern warning to the government on the issue.
He told the Brexit Republic podcast in January: “I have made this point several times with UK negotiator David Frost, I know the temptation for some UK leaders is to talk about the EU as an international organization , we are more than an organization and the UK knows this very well.
“I just want to say that it would be wise for the British side to find a smart solution to this point.”
Asked about the implications if the row continues, Mr Barnier reiterated his ominous warning to the UK side.
He added: “I repeat, it would be wise for the UK to come up with a smart solution.”
READ MORE: Juncker’s anger at EU criticism ahead of vaccine industry intervention
Mr Barnier said citizens and businesses needed time to adjust, and warned the UK not to contradict the protocol.
He said: “I can understand that we need some time to properly implement some of the provisions of the agreement, we need time to adapt.
“But we cannot work in contradiction with the treaty … as we did with the Irish protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement, despite threats from the government, we have found concrete solutions on key issues.
“We are ready to do it, but not in contradiction with the treaty.
“When we talk about rules of origin, we are talking about preserving and defending our jobs in the EU, nothing else.”
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