Northern Ireland Protocol will not be renegotiated says Barnier
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Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has insisted “conditions have been met” for the UK to trigger Article 16 of the Brexit trade deal.
Mr Lewis said the UK wants to achieve “proper, sustainable” solutions to the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He said on Sunday: “What we’re saying is that Article 16 conditions have been met. We could trigger it.
“But we’re showing our good faith in wanting to negotiate proper, sustainable solutions by not actually triggering it.”
Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol sees both the EU and UK able to take unilateral action if undue harm is caused by the agreement.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Mr Lewis accused the EU of not doing enough to resolve issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol.
However, he accepted there will always be the need for some kind of regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
He told the programme: “What I have said, as Lord Frost and the PM have said, there will always be an agreement, a treaty, a structure between us and the EU for goods that are moving into the EU.
“It’s often forgot there has been some form of phytosanitary checks, the SPS checks people talk about, between Great Britain and Northern Ireland because of the single epidemiological unit of the island for a very, very long time.
“So some form of structure around that isn’t going to change.
“What we need to do is resolve these issues that are currently there with the Protocol.”
Boris Johnson said that the controversial protocol “could in principle work”, but its a case of “fixing it or ditching” it.
Speaking to BBC News Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister said: “The fundamental problem for us is that it is very difficult to operate in an environment where the EU system can decide when and how many checks can be carried out across the Irish Sea.
“Goods are being pointlessly interrupted, and it is crazy to have cancer drugs which you can’t move from one part of the UK to another.
“The protocol could in principle work. It has got enough leeway in the language for it to be applied in a commonsense way without creating too many checks down the Irish Sea.”
Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney has warned against triggering Article 16, saying it would be a “hugely problematic backward step”.
He told broadcaster RTÉ it was his understanding the British government was “not likely to trigger Article 16”.
He said: “It would be a hugely problematic backward step in relationships between the UK government and the EU institutions at a time actually when we are trying to build trust between the Šefcovic and Frost teams.
“The idea of that, when I think both sides know that this month is going to be a very important month, particularly the second half of it, I think that would be politically a huge mistake.”
It comes after DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has signalled his party will collapse the Stormont Executive if major changes to Irish Sea border are not secured.
The move would place an onus on the Government to trigger a snap Assembly poll.
He also suggested violence could return unless the issue is dealt with, saying: “Since the start of July, the streets have been quieter in terms of violence, but I fear that unless we grapple with this issue, this will prove to be merely a pause, rather than an end to the disorder.
“I want to thank those in my party and elsewhere who have helped work to calm the situation on the ground in recent times, but it would be an act of folly to believe that the anger has receded, or the danger has passed.”
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