Brexit: EU warns of ‘serious consequences’ if UK invokes article 16


    Brexit: EU warns of ‘serious consequences’ if UK invokes article 16


    Brexit: EU warns of ‘serious consequences’ if UK invokes article 16

    Maroš Šefčovič says Brussels has seen no concessions from UK side in Northern Ireland protocol dispute

    David Frost

    Article 16 of the protocol allows either side to take unilateral “safeguard measures” that would suspend parts of the deal agreed by Johnson with Brussels if it causes “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.

    Such a move would be seen as incendiary in EU capitals, which have been infuriated by Downing Street’s refusal to implement a deal agreed in October 2019. Before his meeting in Brussels, Frost nevertheless warned triggering article 16 was “very much on the table”, adding that time was running out.

    “We hope to make some progress, but honestly, the gap between us is still quite significant, but let’s see where we can get to,” he said. “We’re not going to trigger article 16 today, but article 16 is very much on the table and has been since July.

    “Time is running out on these talks if we are to make progress.”

    Frost had set the EU a three-week deadline after the 12 October publication in Brussels of a plan to drastically reduce the level of checks on trade going from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

    It is widely expected that any decision on article 16 will be made after the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, which are due to end on 12 November.

    Frost said: “I’m not going to give any timescales or any hypotheticals. There’s a significant gap between us. If that gap narrows and the commission listens to what we have said in the command paper and looks at the situation in Northern Ireland, then maybe that will help us move things forward.”

    There has been speculation the UK could use article 16 to implement its vision for Northern Ireland, as outlined in a July command paper. However, the treaty only allows for “strictly necessary” actions “to remedy the situation”. There is ongoing debate in government at what this legally permits.

    Should the UK trigger article 16, there will be a range of options available to the EU, including giving notice of terminating the trade and cooperation agreement that ensures tariff-free trade.

    EU sources said it was unlikely Brussels would jump to such a decision given the range of other options within the treaty to respond to the UK, including targeted tariffs on British exports.


    • Brexit
    • David Frost
    • Northern Ireland
    • Foreign policy
    • European Union
    • Europe
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    Published at Fri, 05 Nov 2021 13:55:03 +0000

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