Clément Beaune, a young French minister for European affairs and a key ally of President Emmanuel Macron, has warned that the European Union will take action if the UK leaves the Northern Ireland protocol to the Brexit deal.
“We wouldn’t be happy to do it, but we would be ready to do it and respond,” Beaune said in an interview on the sidelines of a gathering of European officials in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The comments come amid a deepening row over post-Brexit trade rules with Boris Johnson’s UK government.
Just before a Group of Seven summit last week, Macron reiterated that the deal signed by the UK in December, which created a trade border in the Irish Sea, was set in stone. Britain attacked the ” the unbalanced attitude that the EU takes in imposing controls on goods entering Northern Ireland.
Beaune said the UK should have expected border controls.
“It’s a good deal, a balanced deal,” he said. For the UK, “it would be crazy to say now, ‘Oh sorry, we forgot to look at what Brexit means.’ “
Growing tensions over the issue have disrupted supermarket supply chains and sparked violent protests among trade unionists in Northern Ireland, and the EU has warned it could impose trade tariffs unless the UK does not line up.
Mechanisms for responding to breaches of the deal are built into the Brexit deal, and Beaune said the EU should stick to them. He also suggested that the bloc could take its time to grant so-called equivalences, which would allow Britain’s financial sector to continue operating in the region. Even a non-binding memorandum of understanding on financial services has yet to move forward.
Read more: France warns UK of ‘retaliation’ in post-Brexit banking
“We don’t really have Feel like rushing the process until the UK gives the impression that it is delivering on its commitments, ”Beaune said in the interview. There is no “climate of trust” at this time.
France will take over the rotating EU presidency for six months in January.