‘No role’ for EU court in Northern Ireland disputes, says UK Brexit minister

David Frost tells lawmakers it's 'highly unusual in an international treaty to have disputes settled in the court of one of the parties.'

‘No role’ for EU court in Northern Ireland disputes, says UK Brexit minister

LONDON — There can be “no role” for the Court of Justice of the European Union as “the final arbiter of disputes” between the EU and U.K. in Northern Ireland, Britain’s David Frost said ahead of another round of talks on post-Brexit trade rules in the region.

The U.K. Brexit minister told a parliamentary committee Monday that gaps between the two sides on the controversial Northern Ireland protocol “remain significant,” especially when it comes to dispute resolution and state aid — key aspects of the deal the British government wants to change but which the European Commission is refusing to revisit.

Frost was speaking to the House of Commons EU scrutiny committee as officials from the EU and U.K. prepare for another round of talks on making the Northern Ireland protocol less burdensome for businesses and citizens in the region.

The Northern Ireland protocol was drawn up to protect the EU’s single market post-Brexit while avoiding a politically-sensitive hard border between Northern Ireland, part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member country.

But the arrangement has proven deeply unpopular with Northern Ireland’s unionist politicians, while the U.K. government has argued it causes unnecessary bureaucracy for goods moving from Great Britain to the region.

Britain plans to use this week of talks in London to explain its proposals to remove the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) from dispute resolution in Northern Ireland, according to a U.K. official. The models London is proposing are detailed in a legal text submitted to Brussels earlier this month, which has not yet been released.

“What we’d like to see instead is an arbitration mechanism which is normal in these sort of treaties, it is exactly what we have in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement,” Frost told the committee, referring to the post-Brexit TCA struck between the EU and U.K. “The arrangements in the TCA are good arrangements,” he said, arguing that its dispute resolution mechanisms would offer “a good model in this case too.”

The U.K. minister insisted Britain is not interested in any arrangements which keep the court in place by another name, arguing it is “highly unusual in an international treaty to have disputes settled in the court of one of the parties.”

“That is the fundamental principle that we take into this, and the fundamental thing we need to remove from the arrangements going forward,” he added.

Frost expressed doubt that the latest package of proposals put forward by EU officials earlier this month delivers “the kind of ambitious freeing-up of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland that we want to see.”

The U.K.’s Brexit point-man was also quizzed on delays to Britain’s association to the EU’s research and development program Horizon Europe, and told lawmakers the hold-up did not make for “a very happy state of play.”

He warned it would be “a breach” of the TCA if the U.K. cannot join Horizon Europe soon, and suggested Brussels may be postponing the U.K.’s association because of the wider political row over Brexit.

“It does raise questions of good faith now, as far as we are concerned,” Frost said. “We have waited quite a long time and not made a great deal of this in the hope that it would fall into place. But it is now the best part of the year. U.K. entities can’t participate and the EU is depriving itself of the big net contribution that we would otherwise be making. It’s hard to see why they would do that if there isn’t wider politics behind this.”

Frost and the Commission’s Vice President Maroš Šefčovič will take stock of this week’s talks at a meeting in London on Friday.

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Rich countries break ‘totemic’ $100B annual climate pledge

That undermines a bargain where developing countries were to cut emissions in return for climate finance.

Rich countries break ‘totemic’ $100B annual climate pledge

The world’s richest countries admitted Monday that they broke a promise to deliver $100 billion a year to developing nations to help them cope with climate change.

A report prepared by ministers from Canada and Germany found the pledge — meant to run from 2020 to 2025 — would not be met until 2023; it came on the same day that the U.N. repeated a warning that the world is not doing nearly enough to rein in global warming.

That’s likely to heighten tensions at next week’s COP26 climate talks, where developing countries have tied their efforts to cut emissions with wealthy countries making good on the climate finance pledge.

The financial promise was made in 2009 and reinforced in 2015, but German State Secretary for the Environment Jochen Flasbarth told reporters: “The developed world did not deliver on the commitment.” That, he said, was “extremely unfortunate … it’s not right that the developed countries didn’t do it in due time.”

Flasbarth and Canadian Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson surveyed wealthy countries and multilateral donors and laid out projections for future climate finance in detail for the first time. 

It’s likely that the 2020 flows fell $20 billion short, but the survey found that over five years from 2021 to 2025, the financial flow would “likely” be around $500 billion — meaning that rich countries might reach the $100 billion-a-year mark on average over the whole period.

U.K. COP26 President Alok Sharma, who commissioned the report, said the signal that the promise would be met — albeit late — was “significant progress on a totemic issue … This has been a source of deep frustration for developing countries and I absolutely get this.”

Flasbarth said he thought the outcome “is not bad enough” for countries “not to be constructive in Glasgow. And now we really urge all parties to come to Glasgow in a spirit to solve the remaining issues.”

Meeting the mark

No developing countries were invited to the press conference. The Bhutanese chair of the group of 46 least developed countries, Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi, tweeted they appreciated the efforts of the COP26 presidency “to ensure that developed countries provide $500bn over five years up to 2025.” He said that should be provided as grants — right now 71 percent come as loans and should provide more funding for adapting to the impacts of climate change, he said.

Others were less sanguine. Mohamed Adow, director of Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa, said the financing failure was “utterly shameful and the deal announced today is still short despite the U.K. government trying to spin it as ‘mission accomplished.’ Poor nations will not be conned and the leaders of the developed world need to pull their finger out and get this money on the table if COP26 is going to be a success.”

Sharma, Wilkinson and Flasbarth argued that, while the rich world hadn’t hit the mark, the report could provide certainty that there was a commitment to arrive at the destination, even if with a delay. That, Wilkinson said, should give poorer countries “confidence that the monies are going to continue to flow over the course of the coming year.”

The consequence of not getting an agreement on faster emissions cuts was laid out by the U.N. report, which found that national climate plans collectively have the world on track to warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century — something scientists warn would be catastrophic.

Wilkinson and Flasbarth’s report found that the shortfall was mostly due to a failure to mobilize private capital alongside public funds.

That highlights that even the current, and unmet, financial promise is much too small, Wilkinson said: “We need to see trillions of dollars that are mobilized for this, not $100 billion.”

One of the biggest problems is the U.S., which largely backed out of international climate finance under Donald Trump. Despite a recent promise to quadruple donations under Joe Biden, the U.S. remains the lowest climate finance contributor among the rich world, according to several measures of its fair share compiled by the World Resources Institute.

According to reports, the U.S. tried to delay the release of the Canadian-German report.

Flasbarth said he and Wilkinson met resistance from some of their peers when they sought assurances about delivering their share of the $100 billion goal. “Jonathan and I really pushed developed countries during the last weeks very hard, and not all of our conversations were really seen to be polite,” he said.

This article is part of POLITICO’s Sustainability Pro service, which dives deep into sustainability issues across all sectors, including: circular economy, waste and the plastics strategy, chemicals and more. For a complimentary trial, email pro@politico.eu mentioning Sustainability.

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