Brexit POLL: Should Frost call Coveney’s bluff after Irish threat to terminate EU deal?

EU’s reaction to triggering of Article 16 discussed by Parker

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Lord Frost has threatened to trigger Article 16 to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol since July, after being dissatisfied with EU offers to adapt the deal. Now, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney threatened that the EU would respond in a “very serious way” to if such a unilateral act were enacted by the UK Government.

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He told RTE Radio One: “I believe that if the British government essentially refuses to implement the protocol, even with the extraordinary flexibilities that are now on offer, and instead looks to set it aside, then I think the EU will respond in a very serious way to that.

“The Trade and Co-operation Agreement that was agreed between the British government and the EU was contingent on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes the Protocol.

“One is contingent on the other. So if one is being set aside, there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU.”

If the EU decided to ‘set aside’ the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (Brexit deal), trade between the whole of the UK and the EU would be plunged into chaos – not just trade in Northern Ireland.

Mr Coveney emphasised that a trade war should be avoided by both sides, but that the UK should tread carefully.

He said: “I think it is important that people like me and others who’ve been involved in this process make it very clear to the British government the consequences of what they’re considering doing in the context of the triggering of Article 16.

“I think I have a responsibility to perhaps set aside the diplomatic language that I’m expected to use as a foreign minister and be a bit more direct in relation to the consequences of that, as the Taoiseach [Michael Martin] has done this week.

“This would be a significant act that would damage relationships between Britain and Ireland, and would put extraordinary pressure on parties in Northern Ireland also.”

Do you think it is a good idea for Lord Frost to trigger Article 16 in a new confrontation with the EU? Vote now.

Mr Coveney warned that the EU’s flexibility could only go so far, and criticised the UK Government for adopting a tactic of asking for a lot while offering little in return.

He said: “The negotiating tactic of the British Government, of the Prime Minister and of Lord Frost, has been very consistent – it has been to offer nothing and to continue to ask for more.

“In the short term that is a successful negotiating tactic because throughout this year, each month that passes, the EU has tried to provide new solutions, new answers, new compromises, more flexibility and so on.

“But, at some point, the EU says ‘enough, we are not negotiating with a partner here that is acting in good faith’.”

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After negotiation talks between the UK and the EU on Friday, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic appeared visibly annoyed and said talks were “disappointing”.

He said: “We have spared no effort in preparing this package and bringing it across the finishing line.

“Our package as a whole will provide significant changes for operators on the ground. It would result in strength and opportunities for the people of Northern Ireland.

“This was a big move by us, but up to today, we have seen no movement at all from the UK side. I found this disappointing, and once again, I urge the UK Government to engage with us sincerely.”

Mr Sefcovic has essentially asked Lord Frost to meet him halfway with a deal that many political commentators said was generous, but Lord Frost has refused to back down on his demands.

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The EU’s new Northern Ireland Protocol offer agreed to cut down 80 percent of checks on goods which will mean “low risk” British goods like chilled meats and medicines can be sold in Northern Ireland without strenuous checks.

But Lord Frost has insisted the power of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) must be removed from Northern Ireland because Brexit was meant to ensure that the EU no longer had any kind of control over any part of the UK.

With both Lord Frost and Mr Sefcovic refusing to budge on the ECJ issue, the possibility of triggering Article 16 is becoming more and more feasible.

Triggering Article 16 will suspend the terms of the Brexit deal and force the UK and the EU to find ‘a commonly acceptable solution’ as a matter of urgency.

But Mr Coveney’s threats could see the EU refusing to compromise further, and taking action to suspend trade from the UK, regardless of Article 16.

Should Lord Frost trigger Article 16 anyway and risk the consequences? Have your say in the comments section below.

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