Foreign secretary reiterates UK’s willingness to trigger Article 16 over NI Protocol

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has held a call with European Commission Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations Maroš Šefčovič to discuss outstanding issues on Europe.

This follows her taking over of the Brexit portfolio following Brexit minister Lord Frost’s resignation over the weekend.

Ms Truss said: “We want a constructive relationship with the EU, underpinned by trade and our shared belief in freedom and democracy. Resolving the current issues is critical to unleashing that potential.

“The UK position has not changed. We need goods to flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, end the role of the ECJ as the final arbiter of disputes between us, and resolve other issues.

“We must pick up the pace on talks in the New Year. Our preference remains to reach an agreed solution.

“If this does not happen, we are prepared to trigger Article 16 safeguards to deal with the very real problems faced in Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.”

The Protocol was implemented to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the wake of Brexit by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

Although not mentioned in his letter of resignation published on Saturday, Boris Johnson’s retreat from the threat to trigger “Article 16” of the Brexit agreement, which would suspend parts of the trade deal agreed for Northern Ireland, is considered to have contributed to Frost’s departure.

The UK’s proposals under Frost included changing the legal basis of the Protocol to that of a Treaty governed by international law, not EU law policed by the European Court of Justice.

The current Protocol, he told the Conservative party conference in October, meant the EU could “make laws which apply in Northern Ireland without any kind of democratic scrutiny or discussion.