Boris Johnson hopes that the Czech presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2022 will open the door to more productive relations with bloc 27, in particular on the thorny question of trade in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
The Ukraine crisis has given the British prime minister an opportunity to build relations with countries in central and eastern Europe – including the Czech Republic – where the UK is taking a tough stance on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Relations between Britain and the European Union have deteriorated in recent weeks after appearing closer at the start of the Ukraine crisis.
Johnson is at odds with Emmanuel Macron, the French president who holds the EU presidency until June 30 and who takes a hardline stance on Brexit.
One of Johnson’s allies said there was hope the Czechs would take a ‘pragmatic’ approach to the EU presidency and ‘open up the debate’ in the long-running dispute over the EU protocol. Ireland, which is part of the Brexit deal.
Johnson has decided not to activate the Article 16 circumvention mechanism to suspend parts of the protocol governing trade matters in Northern Ireland, until regional elections on May 5 at the earliest. “We have been asked to avoid any controversy,” said the British official.
However, EU diplomats insisted that the Czech presidency, which begins in July, would not be more flexible. One said: “There is no Czech policy on Brexit, only EU policy.”
Another said: “Ukraine will dominate the whole presidency. It affects all files.” The Czech government said it would continue with its current policy on Northern Ireland.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has given the UK a chance to unite with the European Union, and politicians on both sides are hoping to ease post-Brexit tensions. However, Johnson was not invited as a guest to a European Council meeting this week to discuss Ukraine, despite attending a NATO-G7 summit in Brussels.
Joe Biden, President of the United States, was invited to the EU summit, chaired by Macron.
Relations with the European Union have soured since Johnson’s speech at his Conservative party’s Spring Conference in Blackpool, where he appeared to unite Brexit ‘freedom’ voters with Ukrainians fighting for their freedom.
Johnson’s allies insist that was not his intention and that his critics deliberately misrepresented it, but the comments sparked outrage in Paris.
Philippe Herrera, political director of the French Foreign Ministry, wrote on Twitter: “If I was Ukrainian, I would be offended. If I was British, I would be ashamed.”
However, Johnson believes that despite cold relations with Paris and Berlin, Britain is seeking to develop strong relations, backed by security cooperation, with countries in northern, central and eastern Europe.
As a member of NATO, the UN Security Council, Group Seven and the Joint Expeditionary Forces, UK-led military intervention initiatives, including UK-led military intervention initiatives the Nordic, Baltic and British countries, said a British official: “Balt. Holland.
Britain’s tough stance on Ukraine, including leadership in arms supply to kyiv, prompted Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov to declare this week that Johnson was “the most active participant in the anti-Russian race”. Downing Street said the Prime Minister was “against Putin”.
Johnson met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the sidelines of the G7 summit this week, but the meeting was short with mixed descriptions of what was under discussion.
The two sides agreed to talk about Ukraine and sanctions, but the British government added that they were discussing “ongoing issues with the Northern Ireland protocol”. An EU official questioned that and said Johnson could have mentioned it, but von der Leyen could not.
The EU spokesman said Johnson had a phone call with Charles Michel, the president of the EU Council, this week and that they had agreed to meet in the future, but the Northern Ireland would be on the agenda.
“The job we did in Ukraine is perfect. But it doesn’t affect EU/UK issues. They said it won’t change our policy.”
Brussels agreed to changes to ease trade deals between the UK and Northern Ireland in the Brexit deal, but Johnson says they didn’t go far enough and threatened to drop most controls on the goods.
David Lammy and John Healy, Foreign Affairs and Defense Spokesperson for the opposition Labor Party, wrote in The Independent: Good for Britain. »