Blog: UK government in row with EU over proposed office in Belfast – The Guardian

The British government has rejected an EU request to open an office in Belfast, in the first major row over the implementation of the post-Brexit Irish border protocol.

The EU closed its offices across the UK when the country left the bloc on 31 January but its officials have a right to be present to monitor the checks and controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

The Foreign Office has rejected Brussels’ request for a permanent physical presence in Belfast on the grounds that this would go beyond what is stipulated in the withdrawal agreement.

There are concerns that it would be seen by some as a step towards joint policing of the customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The British government fought during negotiations over the withdrawal agreement to ensure that checks and controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea would not be jointly carried out.

The row highlights the potential for the protocol on Northern Ireland to be a cause of contention between the EU and the UK in the months to come.

Under the withdrawal agreement, Northern Ireland effectively stays in the single market. It also remains within the UK’s customs territory to allow it to benefit from any future trade deals secured by the British government. But the full EU customs code has to be enforced on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. All goods deemed at risk of travelling from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland would attract tariffs.

The messy compromise allowed for the avoidance of a border on the island of Ireland but brings with it a host of potential flashpoints.

The issue of a Belfast office was raised on Monday during the first teleconference meeting of the EU-UK joint committee, set up to supervise the operation of the withdrawal agreement. The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, is the UK’s senior figure on the committee.

Under article 12 of the Northern Ireland protocol, the UK government is “responsible for implementing and applying the provisions of [EU] law” but EU officials “shall have the right to be present during any activities” relating to checks and controls.

The UK is obliged to “facilitate such presence of representatives and shall provide them with the information requested”. The EU wants a base for its customs and veterinary experts.

A European commission spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have sent letters to the UK regarding a proposal to open a technical office in Belfast with specific technical capabilities to ensure the implementation of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. This issue was raised in the joint committee on Monday. We remain in contact with the UK on this point.”

A spokesman for the UK government said it was considering the issue. He said: “We received an initial request from the EU and responded to decline the proposal in February. We have since received a follow-up letter to which we will respond in due course.”

Source: “brexit” – Google News

Blog: Nigel Farage’s shock letter to Barack Obama revealed: ‘Mind your own business!’ – Express.co.uk

Two months before the Brexit referendum, former US President Barack Obama visited London and warned Britain that a trade deal with the US would not be a priority if British voters chose to leave the EU. Mr Obama said: “The UK is going to be in the back of the queue.” At the time, his remarks were furiously criticised by Brexiteers, who suspected then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s Government to be the mastermind behind them.

They pointed to the President’s choice of the word “queue”, rather than the American usage of “line”, as evidence of British involvement in scripting Mr Obama’s comment.

One of the people who reacted with fury to the comments was Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who had previously warned Mr Obama to “mind his own business”.

A month before his visit, Mr Farage alongside five other eurosceptics penned a letter in which they urged the former US President to leave the decision to the British people.

The letter stated: “With so much at stake, it is imperative that the question of exiting the European Union is not one answered by foreign politicians or outside interests, but rather by the British people who must ultimately live with change or the status quo.

“While it is understandable that a sitting US president feels the obligation to speak in the interest of the United States, it must be advised that even a passive diplomatic recommendation in the matter of our national decision will receive the opposite of the intended effect.

“The referendum vote is an act of democracy in its most direct form, and the question of whether or not to leave the EU is a rare political topic that is not owned by any one political party.

“This is a chance for the British people to choose the path of their country.”

The letter added: “As fellow elected representatives we would therefore respectfully ask that you refrain from further politicising this debate by intervening in our approaching referendum and instead allow democracy to take its course.”

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The five MPs who signed the letter were Tories Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove and former Labour’s Kate Hoey and Kelvin Hopkins, and Sammy Wilson from the Democratic Unionist Party.

Mr Obama ended up ignoring the warning but according to Vote Leave insider Lord David Owen his visit was actually crucial to winning the Brexit referendum.

In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, the former Foreign Secretary and SDP co-founder explained: “I was quite convinced we would win the referendum after Barack Obama’s visit.

“That was the only moment when the opinion polls really changed.

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“There was an argument whether there was a three or five percent shift in favour of coming out.

“From that moment on we were even-steven.”

Lord Owen noted: “Boris Johnson made it.

“If I had been the leader of the campaign I would have made a speech against other leaders interfering with our domestic policies.

Source: “brexit” – Google News