UK Foreign Secretary and new Brexit Minister Liz Truss has expressed her willingness to trigger Article 16 but will also suggest “constructive proposals” to EU counterparts before taking such an extreme action. Ms. Truss has warned that she will suspend parts of the post-Brexit trade deal in the event that negotiations fail between the UK and the EU.
Truss, who took on the role as Brexit Minister after the resignation of David Frost, will be meeting this week with European Commission for International Relations Vice President Maroš Šefčovič at the Chevening country retreat. Ms. Truss explained how it is her “absolute priority” to resolve the “unintended consequences” created by the Northern Ireland Protocol to maintain peace in Northern Ireland.
Truss added that she will be putting forward “constructive proposals to resolve the situation” with the prominent issues being “myriad and manifest” while highlighting the issues associated with trade between both Northern Ireland and the UK which the Irish Sea border, created by the Protocol, has caused.
Stressing that she will work day and night in an attempt to formulate a solution to the issue, the Foreign Secretary warned that she would not sign up to anything that doesn’t benefit the people of Northern Ireland as the rest of the UK regarding taxation and spending, however, she also doesn’t desire a situation where they will see goods moving from within the country being subject to checks.
“I will not sign up to anything which sees the people of Northern Ireland unable to benefit from the same decisions on taxation and spending as the rest of the UK, or which still sees goods moving within our own country being subject to checks.”
Truss reiterated that her priority is to protect the peace and stability of Northern Ireland, however, as desirable as a solution regarding the peace in Northern Ireland is, Truss continues to issue caution that she is ready to trigger Article 16 in the event that they have to use “legitimate provisions”.
Maroš Šefčovič is keen to negotiate a solution that benefits the interests of both the UK and the EU, however, a sense of broken trust has emerged lately between the EU and the UK with Mr. Šefčovič expressing discontent towards the UK’s attitudes regarding negotiations, stating that every time a potential solution is proposed by the EU, the threat of Article 16 re-enters the discussions.
“This is a very distracting element in the discussions. You try to achieve something together and – bam – there’s the threat of Article 16 again.” Mr. Šefčovič also highlighted that “London has breached a great deal of trust” in relation to Protocol negotiations as he accused the UK of breaking international law in trying to get around the arrangement.
Although trust may be broken, Šefčovič stated that it can be rebuilt and that a compromise can be met and it’s hoped that this week’s meeting between himself and Ms. Truss will result in a compromise and rebuild trust between the EU and the UK.
Will the EU remove goods checks between Northern Ireland and the UK?
There are many aspects involved in the Northern Ireland Protocol that the UK has expressed major concerns over, from the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling over the post-Brexit deal to goods from the UK to Northern Ireland being subject to vast checks.
Both the UK and Northern Ireland are discontent with this particular element of the deal as the UK believes that goods being sent from them to another UK member should not be subject to checks, while Northern Ireland states that the Protocol threatens the country’s sovereignty from the EU and its identity as being recognised as a member of the UK.
In an attempt to settle this particular quarrel, the EU was prepared to suggest a proposal that would see all goods checks between the UK and Northern Ireland being reduced by 80% with a prominent relaxation on medicine, however, former Brexit Minister David Frost disputed the EU’s efficacy of its proposals that would reduce checks on goods.
A fairly difficult situation awaits Liz Truss despite her success with a number of international trade deals in the past, as well as being the most popular Conservative amongst the membership. With Brexiters continuously demanding the removal of the ECJ, internal trade barriers and the triggering of Article 16, it’s a far cry from negotiating international trade deals.
This is because the EU remain protective of the EU’s single-market integrity and are not forecasted to budge any further than the 80% reduction in SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) checks nor the 50% reduction in customs checks. The EU has also remained adamant about the role of the ECJ and is not likely to change its position, leaving the possibility that the UK might actually trigger Article 16 as a result.
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