Article 16: UK won’t suspend Northern Ireland Brexit deal before Christmas, cabinet minister says

UK softens negotiating position in talks over sea border

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Monday 22 November 2021 14:55
Comments
<p>Brussels would suspend the UK-wide trade deal in retaliation, Ireland has warned   </p>

Brussels would suspend the UK-wide trade deal in retaliation, Ireland has warned

The UK will not suspend the Northern Ireland Brexit agreement before Christmas, a Cabinet minister has said.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, said the government would "absolutely not" trigger Article 16 before the end of the year.

The comments appear to signal a softening of the UK's strategy in Brexit talks over Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson's government has been threatening to trigger Article 16 and effectively suspend the agreement if the EU does not make changes to it.

Brexit minister Lord Frost had previously said things would be settled by Christmas one way or another – effectively setting a deadline.

But Ms Trevelyan told the Telegraph newspaper: "I don't think anyone's calling Article 16 before Christmas, absolutely not."

Lord Frost, who has been shuttling back and forth to Brussels for talks with Brussels over the agreement, said last week that Article 16 was still on the table and had been since July.

Asked about Ms Trevelyan's comments Boris Johnson's spokesperson told a briefing of journalists in Westminster:

"Our preference remains to agree a negotiated solution if we can. Of course we will use Article 16, the safety mechanism, if solutions cannot be found.”

Asked directly whether the Government was willing to trigger Article 16 before Christmas, the spokesman replied: "I am not going to put a timetable on it.

"We continue to believe that the conditions for triggering that safety mechanism of Article 16 have been met.

"That remains the Government position. But we will look for a consensual, negotiated solution."

The Cabinet minister's comments could be interpreted in Brussels as the UK backing down from the brink.

Rhetoric emanating from the UK side has somewhat softened in recent weeks, with Boris Johnson's authority weakened by the ongoing second jobs sleaze scandal.

The UK wants the EU to change the agreement to remove barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was drawn up by Lord Frost and the EU two years ago to solve the problem of what would happen to the Irish border after Brexit. It came into force just at the beginning of this year.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in