Britain and the EU are set resume talks, with a number of issues around trade between the two sides dominating proceedings. The implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol will be top of the agenda, and Lord Frost will make a speech in Parliament to announce an extension on grace periods that will expire at the end of this month which delay the implementation of parts of the mechanism. But the possibility of the UK triggering Article 16, which would see key parts of the Protocol overhauled, still remains.
Political commentator Denis Staunton described the threat to trigger Article 16 as “a loaded gun on the table but the gun is not loaded, it doesn’t work and it is locked in a box on the other side of the room” writing in the Irish Times.
The UK has so far been against triggering Article 16 as it would not resolve the current difficulties around the Protocol and risks a brutal retaliation from the EU that would likely destroy already weak relations with Brussels.
In July, Lord Frost unveiled a number of proposals he hoped would ease problems caused by the Protocol.
They included being more lenient in its enforcement of customs checks, scrapping requirements for Northern Ireland goods to meet EU laws if they comply with British legislation, and agreeing to remove the European Court of Justice as the arbitrator of the Protocol.
While the Brexit minister warned the UK believes the conditions for triggering Article 16 had now been met and the Protocol in its current form is no longer a viable solution, he instead called for the mechanism to be rewritten.
But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned: “The EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the Protocol framework. But we will not renegotiate.”
Just a couple of days later, the Commission appeared to change its tone slightly.
A spokeswoman said: “The Commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally, and with the European Parliament.”
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