Northern Ireland: UK ‘needs to trigger Article 16’ says Oulds
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In a speech given by Lord Frost at the British-Irish Association, the Brexit minister declared it was “clear” the threshold for triggering Article 16 has been met, allowing the UK Government to “take a range of safeguard measures on this basis”. Article 16 refers to the provision for appropriate safeguard measures, and its implementation comes following burdens being placed on Northern Ireland businesses as a result of the Brexit deal.
Article 16 of the NI protocol allows the EU or UK to unilaterally suspend aspects of its operations if either side considers that aspect to be causing “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade.”
As the article has been triggered, the other side is allowed to take “rebalancing” steps in response.
In his speech, Lord Frost referred to three areas that need to see change in future arrangements made with the EU.
He highlighted the importance of the movement of goods into Northern Ireland, the standards for goods within Northern Ireland, and the governance arrangements for regulating this.
He explains difficulties are being faced due to the construction of the protocol in addition to its implementation, and the new approach is a “coherent one”.
Lord Frost refers to previous issues faced which “flow from implementation of the Protocol – not ‘failure’ to implement it” and said that “we have problems precisely because we are imposing customs checks, not because we aren’t.”
He said: “What we have put on the table is workable and manageable. It may be awkward, it may be unwelcome to some.
“It may challenge accepted ways of doing things in customs or goods standards.
“But I haven’t heard anyone say it can’t work in principle.”
Having met the threshold for triggering Article 16, Lord Frost declared that it is “open to the UK Government to take a range of safeguard measures on this basis” to move forward with.
He stated: “That is simply a statement of fact”.
Elsewhere in his speech, Lord Frost commented on the number of changes made since the previous British-Irish Association conference in 2019.
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He reflected that despite two years on, the “question of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland” remains “apparently as controversial as ever”.
During the speech, he queried “is it reasonable that this question won’t go away?” before answering that question with “despite our best attempts, the issue is not settled.”
He declared “that a new balance needs to be found”.
He referred to Brexit as a “first stage” step, and as a “necessary gateway through which this country had to pass in order to give us freedom”, and that with the right choices made, will “free up and liberalise our economy domestically”.
The Brexit minister declared the need for the current governance relationship “to evolve to reflect the reality” of “an agreement between two sovereign and autonomous entities”.
He stated that in order to move forward, change needed to be implemented as “better ways are available and have to be found, and they exist in most other international treaties”.
Lord Frost concluded his speech by saying: “There is no doubt this is a challenging moment but it is also a moment of huge opportunity.”
He then reiterated the momentous change “which truly delivers for everyone – Northern Ireland and Ireland above all”.
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