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Thursday 21 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
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# Brexit
EU-UK relations seen as improved in months since Boris Johnson departure
Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly has described the former British prime minister as a “buffoon who didn’t take anything seriously”.

RELATIONS BETWEEN THE EU and UK have improved significantly this year following the change in leadership in Downing Street, The Journal understands.

The political upheaval in late 2022 after Boris Johnson was pushed to resign as prime minister, which ultimately led to the appointment of incumbent Rishi Sunak, marked a change in the post-Brexit diplomatic relationship between the two sides.

Less than a year ago, relations between the EU and UK were particularly terse as the British government pushed forward with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, a piece of legislation that sought to override parts of the Protocol to scrap customs checks between Northern Ireland and Britain.

The landscape has changed dramatically since then with the change of leadership in the Conservative Party and the signing of the Windsor Framework this spring.

Speaking to reporters today in Brussels, Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly said there was now “good news” on Brexit after “four or five horrible years under Boris Johnson, a buffoon who didn’t take anything seriously and you couldn’t take him seriously”.

“But thankfully, the Brits got sick of Johnson eventually. Liz Truss lasted 44 days, and along came a mature politician with a sense of responsibility in Sunak.”

Kelly said that the Windsor Framework has “changed the whole dynamic and things are now beginning to work at least”.

“Brexit obviously can never be as good as being in the European Union, for the UK or for probably us either, but at least we’re moving in a responsible manner politically.”

Turning to Northern Ireland, he said that if the Stormont institutions – which have been prevented from forming a functioning Executive by the DUP over its discontent with the post-Brexit deal – can get “up and running”, then “we may be able to talk about how the future would look and prepare for the future”. 

The Journal understands that the EU Commission also considers relations with the UK to be in a better place than they were last year, with more constructive discussions on the future relationship between the bloc and its ex-member state.

The tone and level of cooperation in meetings with the UK are considered to have improved in recent months compared to the dynamics under Boris Johnson’s leadership, which are remembered as difficult engagements.

However, there is a sense on the EU side that the extent of the impact of Brexit on the UK will continue to become clearer in the years to come and that the economic effects will be significant, even with improved relations.

The Windsor Framework, which was agreed upon in March after months and months of negotiations, is seen by the EU Commission as having allowed discussions about the future to move forward significantly.

The framework was born out of intense back-and-forth over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the post-Brexit trading arrangement that allowed goods to pass freely between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland and instead face checks when crossing the Irish Sea.

Under the framework, a new system of checks on goods from Britain to Northern Ireland created a ‘green’ and ‘red’ lane respectively for goods with a destination in Northern Ireland and goods moving onwards to Ireland or elsewhere in the EU.

Progress is still ongoing between both sides on how to navigate trading arrangements in the wake of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Yesterday, the EU Council adopted three regulations regarding medicines, certain steel products, and public, animal and plant health issues. 

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