Liz Truss renews threat to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol

One year on from Brexit, the Northern Ireland Protocol continues to generate uncertainty between the EU and the U.K.. Former Brexit Minister David Frost was working on this until his resignation in December. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has now taken over talks with the EU on how to manage this delicate patch of territory.

There will be 2 days of talks this week between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart, Maroš Šefčovič. Ms Truss will be proposing constructive solutions to alleviate the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol. She has also stated she is willing to trigger Article 16 if there are legitimate provisions to do so.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?


The Northern Ireland Protocol is the compromise for facilitating Brexit customs clearances whilst protecting the peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is in the United Kingdom and in the same customs territory as per the Acts of UnionThe Republic of Ireland is a part of the European Union so it is not a part of the United Kingdom’s customs territory. This makes Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland part of 2 different customs territories. 

However, putting a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is not an option. This is due to the political status of Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement (a treaty signed to end over 30 years of violent conflict). 

The agreement formed a new government in Northern Ireland managed by the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom. There is concern that a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could cause instability, and peace is the main priority.

The outcome is that Northern Ireland requires free movement with the Republic of Ireland and mainland United Kingdom, but the Republic of Ireland requires a hard border with the United Kingdom. 

The NI Protocol creates a customs border between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, but allows movement of goods from Northern Ireland to mainland United Kingdom without additional checks.

Goods moving from mainland United Kingdom to Northern Ireland must conform to the EU’s customs requirements. As a result, this has put unfair pressure on businesses on both sides of the border. The former Brexit minister, David Frost, attemped to propose solutions for this issue to the EU but there was no resolution.

The threat of Article 16 has been raised several times if a solution cannot be found.

What is Article 16?


Any amendments to the Northern Ireland Protocol must be agreed by both sides. However, Article 16 is a safeguard that allows either side to unilaterally change or cancel the agreement if there are economic, societal, or environmental justifications for doing so.

Businesses trading inside the United Kingdom are being affected by the Protocol. Former Brexit Minister David Frost and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss have proposed amendments to the Proposal to the EU to resolve these issues. The EU have not yet agreed to an amendment of terms and insist that goods moving from mainland United Kingdom to Northern Ireland must conform to the same checks as goods entering other parts of the EU.

Invoking Article 16 would allow the United Kingdom to cancel the Northern Ireland Protocol and end the issues inside the United Kingdom. However, there would need to be a replacement scheme in place to facilitate trade between Northern Ireland and the European Union so an agreed solution would be best for all involved. 

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