Government incompetence undermines the UK's credibility

This year is the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. Great Britain was a key founder of the definitive international organisation that was established for world order, for peace and co-operation through developing international treaties. So it is tragic and shameful that we now have the UK promoting legislation to unilaterally breach the terms of an international treaty.

Not since Suez, under Prime Minister Eden, has Britain been so diminished on the world stage. This is not a letter about politics. It is about competence.

The same UK Government that signed an international treaty has, within a year, avowed its intent to break international law. It means that the Government either did not understand, or fully accept, the treaty when it signed up to it. Yet, the treaty agreed for Brexit on Northern Ireland between the EU and UK does include a mechanism for any adjustments either side may wish to make.

This is the joint EU-UK committee, with Michael Gove representing the UK. As if the litany of incompetence around coronavirus was not enough – the missed Cobra meetings, the late lock down, the lack of PPE, the inadequate and centralised ‘test & trace’, the school ‘exams’ – we have now further incompetence that undermines the UK’s international credibility. Any undermining of the Northern Ireland peace agreement will also seriously affect any prospect of a US trade agreement because of the Irish-American reaction.

As the UK behaves rashly with its nearest and largest potential trading partner, it puts in serious jeopardy the prospects for the UK economy beyond 2020, especially in Northern England. Other potential trading partners will definitely think twice and insist on harder terms as the UK undermines international trust in it. Probably the next major test of UK competence, exposed to full international glare, will show itself on January 2, 2021, in the scale of delays to road freight at our borders.

Only then might we come to understand what borders are and the importance of treaties.

Richard Shirres

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