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DUP welcome Truss Article 16 threat amid calls for 'flexability' on Protocol

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has threatened to trigger Article 16 of the NI Protocol ahead of talks with the EU this week. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.
Paul Ainsworth

SOLUTIONS to the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse require "flexibility and generosity, not threats and instability" it has been claimed following a warning from the UK's lead Brexit negotiator that she was prepared to trigger Article 16.

British foreign secretary Liz Truss used a platform in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper to warn her European Union counterpart Maroš Šef?ovi? over the Protocol ahead of talks between both sides this week.

Ms Truss, who campaigned for the remain side in the 2016 Brexit referendum, said she would "not sign up to anything" that would include continued checks on goods moving between Britain and the north.

Checks on goods are required under the NI Protocol, which was part of the Withdrawal Agreement agreed between the UK and EU in 2019 in order to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

Ms Truss said she will suggest "constructive proposals" at this week's meeting, but said she was "willing" to suspend parts of the Protocol by triggering its Article 16 mechanism.

Her threat was welcomed by DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, who said: "She is right that unionists do not consent to the protocol and we need the government to follow through on their commitment to safeguard the Union and protect Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market."

UUP leader Doug Beattie called for "common sense" to "de-escalate this issue", but condemned the DUP's threat to collapse Stormont over the deadlock.

He said: "It is perfectly reasonable that goods from Great Britain which are destined to stay in Northern Ireland should not be subject to checks, and those goods destined for the EU market can be checked at our ports. We have already recommended legislation to make this workable as far back as 2019."

Speaking of Ms Truss' comments, TUV leader Jim Allister said: "Strong words are fine, but they need to be matched by actions."

However, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood warned that people in the north "have had enough of the games" over the Protocol, and accused the British government of using the issue to distract from its mistakes.

"Everyone can clearly see that in an attempt to dig itself out of a political hole, the DUP is prepared to whip up fear, anger and resentment over port checks that affect virtually no one’s daily life," the Foyle MP said.

"They are being enabled by British Government Ministers desperate for a political fight to distract from their disastrous management of the Covid-19 pandemic and a series of Tory sleaze stories that have, remarkably, further diminished their authority."

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has called for a meeting with Ms Truss to discuss the "reality" of the Protocol issue.

"The fact is that the Protocol is working for business and the economy in the north. The focus needs to be on making it work better," she said.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s European Affairs spokesman Neale Richmond accused the UK side of issuing "pointless threats" over Article 16.

The Dublin Rathdown TD said: "Ultimately the Protocol is something this British government negotiated, ratified and campaigned on in a General Election; it is not a foreign construct or a handy distraction to misuse for domestic political gain.

 

He added: "There is a window now to iron out the implementation of the Protocol. Constant threats to invoke Article 16 or indeed to collapse Stormont help no-one."

 

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