Liz Truss set to rile up EU in first days as PM by triggering Article 16 of NI protocol

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The Foreign Secretary has been at loggerheads with the EU for months over Brexit negotiations surrounding a hard border in Northern Ireland. The Tory leader hopeful will have to make fast decisions if she goes to No 10 with a tight September deadline on the EU’s legal action.

Relations between the United Kingdom and the Bloc have been fractious following the Brexit referendum but have particularly worsened over the post-Brexit trading situation in Northern Ireland since 2021.

The current rules on checks of the imports and exports between Northern Ireland and Great Britain are more relaxed, but the eased rules will no longer be in force after September 15.

The protocol states that goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain are subject to EU rules which will create a trade border in the Irish Sea which Downing Street has called “unworkable”.

Though triggering Article 16 will increase tensions between the EU and the UK, it will send a defiant and strong message to Brussels while also protecting the trading status in Northern Ireland and UK businesses.

Businesses have already abandoned Northern Ireland over the extensive checks the EU wishes to enforce in order for the goods to cross the Irish Sea.

Staff from Team Truss have reportedly made arrangements to trigger Article 16 if she becomes Prime Minister in order to freeze legal action to allow time for legislation to pass through the House of Commons allowing parts of the protocol to be unilaterally rewritten, according to the Times.

The Foreign Secretary’s campaign said that Truss would prefer “a negotiated solution” but “there are serious problems with the Northern Ireland protocol which need fixing”.

Those close to the leading candidate have said she is not “pushing” for the drastic move but that it is on the table if she becomes Prime Minister.

An official close to Truss told the Financial Times: “Some Government officials have raised concerns about issues coming down the track and have presented many options to ministers to deal with them.”

Article 16 can be triggered by either party to suspend the protocol if it causes “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties” or a “diversion of trade”, however, both the EU and the UK see it as the final option.

According to The Times, the Foreign Secretary is still willing to hold talks with the EU in a last-ditch attempt to quash escalating tensions.

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However, Truss is standing firm as she told Tory members last week in Belfast: “I will not accept anything that does not deliver on the key issues I talked about.”

She added that any solution via negotiations would have to ensure “UK courts are the ultimate arbiter” and that Northern Ireland and Great Britain can enjoy “free flowing” trade.

She also clarified her wish that Northern Ireland “can benefit from the tax benefits delivered by the UK Government.”

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