Attorney General pushes triggering of Northern Ireland Protocol's Article 16 – though talks continue

Mon 28 Mar 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

ni protocol

The Attorney General for England and Wales, Suella Braverman, is reported to be pushing for the government to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Braverman and Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg are said to have been pressing foreign secretary Liz Truss, who is handling negotiations with the EU, on the issue.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Braverman has provided formal legal advice stating that Article 16 can and should be triggered by the UK. She sits on the two Cabinet committees that oversee trade talks and the implementation of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Low key talks

Talks between the UK and EU on ways to reduce the red tape created by the protocol are ongoing, but are set to be more low key, due to the forthcoming Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

Opponents of the Northern Ireland Protocol fear the government will lose its opportunity to obtain meaningful changes after the 5 May elections.

After this poll, Sinn Fein is expected to become Northern Ireland’s biggest party for the first time, making leader Michelle O’Neill – who opposes changes to the protocol – first minister.

Do the ‘right thing’ says Davis

Former Brexit secretary David Davis has argued that triggering Article 16 if the EU does not renegotiate the protocol would be the “right thing”, reports the Express.

“It’s not a great outcome in negotiating terms but it’s better than leaving Northern Ireland in the situation it’s in now,” he said on LBC.

Writing in the Telegraph at the weekend, Truss said that while she was determined to “fix” the protocol, the Ukraine crisis meant she was “working very, very closely with the European Union”.

“Of course, there are some areas with which we have differences with the EU. But fundamentally, we are all democratic nations, we all believe in freedom and the right of people to select their own governments and we are very much united in the fight,” she added.

‘Green lane’ proposal

As previously covered in the IOE&IT’s Daily Update, Truss has tabled a proposal to boost trade between Britain and Northern Ireland with tax breaks and a “unilateral green lane” allowing goods that would remain in the UK to cross the Irish sea with minimal paperwork. 

The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Doug Beattie, has warned that anti-protocol rallies featuring Unionist politicians are “raising tensions” in Northern Ireland, reports the Standard.

He issued a statement on Sunday saying his party would not take part in the rallies.

Anti-protocol protests on Friday led to a security alert in Belfast, with Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney being evacuated from a peace event.