The government signed up to the agreement that placed a customs border between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, which has angered the unionist community in Northern Ireland.
Brussels has warned against any departure from the agreement, and said that it would be a declaration of a trade war if Britain were to make this step.
Well this week it happened. It was announced last Monday that the government was introducing legislation that would “override” aspects of the agreement, allowing goods to be transported from mainland UK to Northern Ireland without the checks the UK agreed to in the protocol. This has prompted fury in the EU, with Brussels claiming that it is a breach of international law. Not only has the EU threatened legal action, they have taken it. EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said there was “no legal or political justification whatsoever for unilaterally changing an international agreement”, saying “lets call a spade a spade, this is illegal”. He added that the EU had “no choice” but to launch legal action.
Philippe Lamberts, a MEP in Brussels said that the EU’s patience had been tested “to the extreme by Boris Johnson”.
Commentators see a real risk of a trade war between the EU and UK as the political squabbles and court battles continue.
But how have we come to this point? Theresa May, shortly after the 2016 EU Referendum gave a speech where she said:
“Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours. It was no attempt to do harm to the EU itself or to any of its remaining member states. We do not want to turn the clock back to the days when Europe was less peaceful, less secure and less able to trade freely. It was a vote to restore, as we see it, our parliamentary democracy, national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.
We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends. We want to buy your goods and services, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship.
We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.
And that is why we seek a new and equal partnership – between an independent, self-governing, Global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU.”
Now although these things might be in the hearts of men and women, we know that “the Most High rules in the kingdoms of men”. The UK government could work to continue sharing values with the EU, they could work to be close friends and allies with the EU, they could seek to remain part of Europe while leaving the European Union, but unless God wills these things the plans of men will be frustrated.
Ezekiel 38, referring to the time when the land of Israel will be attacked by Gog’s host, which includes the states of the European Union, records that:
Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?
And so what we see is that the Tarshish Power, Britain, will not only be standing apart from the European nations, will not only be outside the European Union’s foreign policy, but will standing their accusing them of attacking the nation of Israel for monetary gain. This is not the language of people who share the same values, this is not the language of close friends and allies, this is the language of rivals. Britain will be condemning the action of its European neighbours, but powerless to stop them from taking the land of Israel.
We also see the prophet Ezekiel refer to “the merchants” or traders of Tarshish. This is particularly interesting when we hear of a trade war between the UK and EU. Today Britain exports over £250 billion worth of goods - making up 42% of all UK exports. The EU exports over £300 billion worth making up half of all the UK’s imports. At the moment the EU is one of the merchants of Tarshish – in fact it is the biggest single trading partner of this country – but perhaps this is about to change. By the time we come to the battle of Armageddon the merchants of Tarshish will be the gulf states and the commonwealth, not the EU.
The looming trade war between the EU and UK will force the UK to extend it’s trade links with other nations around the world and more permanently solidify the separation that we have already seen between the continent and the UK.
And so as we see these things coming together let us be reminded that our father in heaven controls the events in this world, it is not in man to direct his steps, and so how sure can we be that not only does he control the big things in this world, he is also in control of the smaller things in our lives. In him we live and move and have our being. So let us fear not the things that come upon this world, but lift up our heads in hope, knowing our redemption draws nigh. This has been Paul Barnes joining you for this week’s Bible in the News.