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Will the EU’s Brexit Fixes Be Enough for Britain?

The European Union will announce changes to border checks under the Northern Ireland protocol.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Stena Line’s Irish sea ferry terminal
Stena Line’s Irish sea ferry terminal at the company’s River Mersey Birkenhead dock is seen in Liverpool, United Kingdom, on Sept. 7. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: EU officials plan to announce changes to Northern Ireland protocol, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with his Israeli and Emirati counterparts, and the United States averts debt ceiling drama.

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Brexit Pains Persist

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: EU officials plan to announce changes to Northern Ireland protocol, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with his Israeli and Emirati counterparts, and the United States averts debt ceiling drama.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Brexit Pains Persist

The European Union will lay out proposed changes to a contentious provision in its divorce deal with the United Kingdom today in a bid to avert a trade war between the two powers.

Despite long negotiations and hard-fought agreements between the two sides over the last two years, how to navigate Northern Ireland’s position without installing a hard border on the island of Ireland remains a point of division.

British Brexit minister David Frost, who hailed the EU-U.K. agreement as an “excellent deal” less than a year ago, has led the charge for changes. On Tuesday, he urged EU officials to negotiate a “new protocol,” arguing that an inflexible EU position would be a “historic misjudgment.”

Frosts remarks came a day before the European Union is set to propose sweeping changes to the protocol, relaxing checks on imports from Great Britain, including provisions that would seek to bring peace in the so-called “sausage war” that prevented certain chilled meats from entering Northern Ireland.

Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president responsible for Brexit negotiations, is expected to frame the changes as a response to in-person talks in Northern Ireland rather than as a reaction to pressure from the British government. Sefcovic is not likely to entertain Frost’s demand that the European Union Court of Justice be removed as the final arbiter of a future trade dispute—as set out in the original Brexit deal.

A welcome distraction? The fact that British concerns are being aired now—when fuel and food shortages, in part caused by Brexit, are at the forefront of ordinary British people’s lives—has not been lost on the political opposition. Labour Party’s Brexit spokesperson Jenny Chapman said senior Conservative Party figures were “desperate to use a tussle with Brussels to distract from their domestic failures—whether on COVID, the energy crisis, or the needless culling of thousands of pigs.” (Ironically, Northern Ireland has been spared the fuel shortages seen across the rest of the United Kingdom.)

Slow going. It also comes as Britain faces a slower economic recovery than the rest of its G-7 counterparts. Despite a highly successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the country’s economy is still expected to be 3 percent smaller than it was prior to the pandemic, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts—though only the United States, Japan, and Canada will see an expansion.

What We’re Following Today

Abraham Accords anniversary. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold a trilateral meeting today alongside Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Washington today. It’s the first such meeting since the signing of the Abraham Accords under former U.S. President Donald Trump and a moment to discuss “future opportunities for collaboration, and bilateral issues including regional security and stability,” according to a State Department release.

Biden tackles supply chain. U.S. President Joe Biden is set to meet with the chief executives of major retail chains as well as the leaders of major U.S. ports today at the White House before an address on the state of the U.S. supply chain ahead of a busy consumer shopping period. A senior White House official has warned “there will be things that people cant get” over the holiday season as a result of supply problems. In downgrading global economic growth projections for the year, the International Monetary Fund cited supply chain bottlenecks in wealthy countries as a factor in the slowdown.

Keep an Eye On

Can kicking. Congress averted a U.S. debt default on Tuesday after it successfully raised the federal debt ceiling with a short-term deal that forestalls chaos in global financial markets. The agreement sets up a Dec. 3 deadline to revisit the issue, which is also the same date government funding is set to run out.

The road to COP26. The International Energy Agency has called for greater ambition in national climate pledges if the world is to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in its annual World Energy Outlook, released today. The group has warned that carbon emissions will only reduce by 40 percent by 2050 under current agreements and said spending on renewable energy must triple by 2030 to meet rising demand.

Odds and Ends

Humans have been trying to kick their tobacco habit for longer than previously assumed following the discovery of the plant’s charred seeds during an archeological dig at an ancient camp in the Utah desert. The 12,300-year-old discovery eclipses what was once thought as the earliest use of tobacco—a smoking pipe found in Alabama—by 9,000 years.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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