Sunak and von der Leyen speak on NI protocol deal

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As Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen shook hands at Windsor Castle yesterday over their long wrangled over deal EU member state ambassadors in London were awaiting their briefing. But for the pair, the row over the protocol was just part of a shopping list of concerns in their deals with Brexit Britain.

One diplomat told “It’s certainly not over. We have other worries.”

The top two problems for them are the Brexit Freedoms Bill to remove the EU to make the UK much more competitive in international trade.

One diplomat said: “It’s not exactly dynamic alignment.”

Another said: “It will be problematic because Britain will be headed in a different direction.”

Dynamic alignment is the EU’s hope that Britain would essentially shadow the EU with its rules and regulations so the two entities can keep trading relatively easily.

For Brexiteers, dynamic alignment has always been a trap to be escaped from.

One European Research Group (ERG) Tory MP described it as “staying in the EU’s single market in all but name”.

Basically, it is an extension of Brussels rule.

However, it seems there haS been diplomatic contacts from the EU with members of the Lords who are threatening to block the legislation.

The whole scenario is a reminder of the Brexit negotiation days when Lord Adonis would lead efforts to stop Brexit from happening.

But there’s another big issue which is vexing embassies of member states as much as the EU.

Britain plans to bring in laws which will force “foreign influencers” to register themselves under a new registration scheme in the National Security Bill.

The rules are largely meant to tackle the problems from China and Russia as well as some Arab states among concerns about them fuelling propaganda in the UK.

But the new laws will also effect the EU and its member states which have many institutes and thinktanks connected to embassies as well as funding academic posts and research.

One EU diplomat suggested this will be the biggest problem they have to deal with in Brexit Britain.

The diplomat said: “The foreign influencers rules will affect our institutes; it’s going to be a very big problem indeed.”

While none of these issues and others have the same political and public profile as the Northern Ireland protocol it is clear, as one diplomat noted: “Things are far from resolved with Brexit.”

And, the man who has led the talks the last few months, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, will find all these new complaints in his inbox.

But the good news for Mr Cleverly is that the new Northern Ireland deal, whether accepted by parties or not, has heralded a return to good relations between Britain and the EU.

Foreign Office sources told that the war in Ukraine has “changed things dramatically.”

After the Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine last year and Europe had a war on its continent EU “priorities seemed to change”, the sources noted.

But two significant developments late last year were a meeting with the Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in London where he agreed to be Britain’s voice in the EU 27 to urge more flexibility from Brussels; and a bilateral trade deal with Italy.

One source noted that there are “now two European relationships.”

And one is with the Commission that is “self-evidently better than it’s been since 2016”.

But the second is the bi-lateral one with European member states which as a result of Ukraine “are stronger than they have ever been.”

According to the sources it has acted as a reminder to EU member states that Britain “did not leave Europe just the EU.”

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