Foreign secretary Liz Truss is putting threats to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol on hold as the UK works closely with the EU in response to the crisis in Ukraine, according to the media reports.
The Protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland as a part of the EU’s single market for goods trade in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Traders moving goods between Britain and Northern Ireland have subsequently had to comply with new customs rules, including the requirement to submit declarations for goods entering the region.
The UK has previously threatened to trigger Article 16 to suspend elements of the Protocol, following disagreements with the EU over its implementation.
Truss is reported to be now considering an “economic stimulus” package to boost trade between Britain and Northern Ireland with tax breaks and a “unilateral green lane” to allow goods to go from Britain to the region with minimal paperwork.
The Telegraph reports that Truss has outlined her proposal to Boris Johnson, who has repeatedly warned that the UK is prepared to use Article 16 if protocol talks remain deadlocked.
Lack of ‘bandwidth’
There are concerns that the government does not have the “bandwidth” to deal the fallout of triggering Article 16 while continuing with its response to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
City AM reports that plans to take away the threat of suspending parts of the Protocol will be met with anger by many Northern Irish unionists who oppose the Protocol, as well as some Brexiteer Tories.
An ally of Truss said: “The EU aren’t showing enough pragmatism, so she’s exploring unilateral measures to ease the pressures on the ground. Article 16 remains very much on the table – she is 100% prepared to use it – but it’s right we look at other measures like tax breaks and ‘unilateral green lane’ measures.”
‘Protocol is working’
Boris Johnson met Ireland’s Taoiseach Michael Martin at the weekend and told him that “significant changes” to the Protocol are nonetheless needed, reports the Independent.
Martin, however, had told reporters that there is a growing view in Northern Ireland that the Brexit deal is actually working well.
“Anybody I’ve met in Northern Ireland all want to continue access to the EU single market. It’s a good basic principle to start off on,” he said.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the Newsletter that Martin’s comments show that “the Irish government is completely blind to the concerns of unionists”.
Donaldson said that rather than “tinkering” with the Protocol, it should be replaced “with arrangements that respect Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom”.
DUP first minister Paul Givan resigned from the Stormont assembly earlier this year forcing Sinn Fein’s deputy first minister to do likewise and restricting the body’s effectiveness.
It has threatened to stay away unless the British government meets its Protocol demands.
The Appeal Court in Belfast has ruled that the Northern Ireland Protocol is lawful, BBC NI editor John Campbell tweeted today.
Unionist politicians had challenged the Protocol in judicial review proceedings, but the court rejected their challenge on all grounds on Monday.