By Claire Gordon •
Published: 06 Nov 2021 • 10:40
The Vice-President of the European Commission (EC), Maros Sefcovic, has warned the UK of “serious consequences” should Article 16 over the Northern Irish border dispute be triggered. Mr Sefcovic indicated the move would be “serious for Northern Ireland as it would lead to instability and unpredictability.”
These warnings come after an unsatisfying meeting with Lord Frost, the UK’s Brexit minister, in Brussels. The meeting was about the protocol dispute, and Lord Frost said that progress was “limited” although gaps could be bridged with some intense negotiations.
The protocol spoken about in the meeting is a special Brexit deal agreed that will prevent a ‘hard’ border in Ireland. It will keep Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods, but it also creates a trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The EU has proposed measures to ensure the smooth running of the trade border over the Irish Sea, such as easing the checks and controls at the borders.
The UK, however, is not happy with how far the talks have come. They want fundamental reform and the speculation is that they will trigger Article 16 – which allows part of the protocol to be ‘unilaterally suspended if they are causing serious difficulties’ in the next few weeks.
Mr Sefcovic has said there have been big moves in the proposals from the side of the EU, but “until today we have seen no move at all from the UK side”. He confirmed that the triggering of Article 16 would be serious for EU-UK relations “as it would mean a rejection of EU efforts to find a consensual solution to the implementation of the protocol.”
A UK spokesperson for Lord Frost said: “the EU’s proposals did not currently deal effectively with the fundamental difficulties in the way the protocol was operating. He underlined that the UK’s preference was still to find a consensual solution that protected the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and the everyday lives of people in Northern Ireland.”
Lord Frost has indicated that time is running out on the talks, and the move of triggering article 16 is “very much on the table, and has been since July.”
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