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UK's Johnson is 'ready to trigger Article 16' on NI

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-07-26 09:43

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference for England's COVID-19 lockdown easing announcement in London, on July 5, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

PM to take a hard line as EU says Britain does not 'respect its own commitments'

The United Kingdom's prime minister is reportedly ready to effectively rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed last year by his government and the European Union as part of the Brexit deal.

The Telegraph newspaper said Boris Johnson will trigger Article 16, which was designed to be a measure of last resort, if the bloc continues to refuse to renegotiate the protocol.

The paper quoted an unnamed member of Johnson's Cabinet as saying the prime minister is more enthusiastic about triggering Article 16 than his ministers.

"He is more fed up and takes a harder line," the paper quoted the source as saying. "His instincts are more robust."

Article 16 can be used by either the UK or the EU to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol if they are deemed to be causing serious economic or societal harm in Northern Ireland.

Johnson and his government have repeatedly claimed the Northern Ireland Protocol is making life too difficult for Northern Ireland companies importing products from England, Scotland, and Wales, despite the fact that all four territories are part of the UK.

The reason why imports into Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK have been impacted is because the protocol aims to avoid the reintroduction of a hard border on the island of Ireland - between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member state. The protocol calls for items shipped from other parts of the UK to be checked at remote locations for quality, and to ensure they are not destined to be shipped on to other parts of the EU.

But the UK claims the checks are slowing exports down and making them more expensive, and it says they make it almost impossible to ship some products, such as sausages, that do not meet EU standards.

The Telegraph, which enthusiastically campaigned for the UK to leave the EU during the 2016 referendum, said the stalemate means there is likely to be a major confrontation before October, when the Northern Ireland Protocol comes fully into force.

The Daily Mail newspaper added that the UK has called for a "standstill" during which customs checks will be put on hold and the protocol renegotiated.

Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, the head of the UK Mission to the EU, effectively the UK's ambassador to the bloc, wrote in a letter to Brussels the "practical effect" of a standstill "would be to ensure that the protocol is operated as now, without cliff edges, deadlines, or pressure points, while discussions are ongoing".

"We believe this would be helpful to enhancing trust and confidence between us," he wrote.

But Reuters said EU minister Clement Beaune, France's minister for European affairs, insisted the protocol is not up for renegotiation.

He said: "The EU has dedicated days and nights for the past five years to find pragmatic solutions with the UK… We have been working for months to make the protocol - requested by the British government and voted by the British Parliament - work."

He asked how the bloc could be expected to renegotiate the deal "with a partner that cannot respect its own commitments".

Meanwhile, the bosses of six of the UK's largest food retailers said last week they will be moving their supply chains out of England, Scotland, and Wales and into the EU, so they can more easily export to Northern Ireland.

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