Northern Ireland

Conor Murphy warns triggering Article 16 would delay a resolution to protocol problems and damage north's economy

Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss. Picture by Hugh Russell
Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss. Picture by Hugh Russell

ANY move by the British government to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol would make finding a resolution to current concerns more difficult and damage the regional economy, Sinn Féin's finance minister has warned.

Conor Murphy was responding to reports that Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss would trigger Article 16 within days of succeeding Boris Johnson.

The DUP has claimed the criteria for suspending the post-Brexit trade arrangements has already been met.

Article 16 is an agreed mechanism within the protocol that allows either the UK or EU to suspend parts of the arrangements if they consider them to be causing economic, societal or environmental harm.

Triggering Article 16 would prompt a fresh round of negotiations between the London and Brussels.

The British government legislation that would unilaterally disapply elements of the protocol is currently making its way through Westminster.

Mr Murphy said the Tory administration's approach to dealing with the EU was "reckless" and that the north was a casualty of that.

He said issues around the protocol would be resolved by dialogue.

The minister said triggering Article 16 would make "the ability to resolve any issues there are more difficult".

"And so it seems that the British Tory leadership are simply playing to their own grassroots and they have no regard for the damage that that is causing the economy here, or the uncertainty that's creating for businesses and for households here," he said.

SDLP MP Claire Hanna said it appeared the Tory leadership hopeful was "talking tough about confrontations with the EU to keep the Brexit base happy".

"Liz Truss hasn’t even got the keys to Downing Street and she’s already getting tangled in the same unsolvable knot that has brought down previous governments," she said.

"Business representatives have been clear about the legal, reputational and economic damage the UK government will do if it sticks on its current course on the protocol."

Earlier this week, the DUP reiterated its call for Article 16 to be triggered after it emerged that some types of steel from Britain being sold in Northern Ireland will be subject to a 25 per cent tariff.

The rule changes only relate to certain categories of steel, with the movement of other types remaining tariff free.

"This issue should have been resolved before the protocol was even dealt with," Mr Murphy said.

"The EU and the British government were supposed to resolve a number of issues, which might have dealt with tariffs and other matters between here and Britain and the only place to resolve any of these issues is dialogue.

"When the British government act unilaterally, and then start to crank it up by talking about invoking Article 16, then they damage the prospect of dialogue to resolve these issues and that is not in our interest."

On Thursday, DUP Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said the criteria for triggering Article 16 had been met.

"What we're facing right now is quite clearly what I believe would fall under within Article 16 and the economic difficulties that the protocol is causing," he said.