We’ll see a lot of haggling over the next few weeks, and a deal may well be done. In the background, however, are well-informed reports of Brussels officials making plans for a full-scale trade war. Certainly, these are clearly designed to put pressure on the Johnson government.
There may be an element of bluster involved. Even so, preparations are clearly underway. If article 16 is triggered and the protocol is unilaterally removed, we should inevitably expect some form of retaliation.
And we’re already starting to get a pretty good idea of what that will look like. The EU’s draft plan has three elements. It would cut the submarine cables and pipes that supply the UK with 10% of its electricity and 12% of its gas.
It will impose tariffs on British exports to the EU, up to levels allowed by WTO rules, which could reach 10% on products such as cars.
He’ll confuse cross-border traffic with paperwork, meticulously check every truck and send everyone home for using the wrong colored ballpoint pen or other minor rule violation. And he will suspend the free trade agreement with Britain, imposing a series of tariffs and quotas.
The intention is clear. The EU wants to force the UK to accept its terms. With goodwill on both sides, even if it is sorely lacking right now, it will not happen at this point and a compromise can be found. In a trade war, however, companies are the infantry, and trucks, customs forms, and export services are the primary weapons.